HUD Secretary Donovan : Veterans Don’t Count

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“We Do Not Headcount Veterans, Says HUD Spokesman”

 

by Ken Smith

 

This is a follow up to an earlier story

“HUD Secretary Donovan, Shame on You”

 

In response, Last week we asked the Honorable Shawn L.S. Donovan, Secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development of  HUD, the following question  “Where has the HUD Veteran Resource Center (HUDVET) been hiding during our nations housing crisis?” this columnist received an email from a Lt. Colonel Jermone M. Brown, Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) for HUD Office of Public Affairs who advised that he is “the spokesman for Secretary Donovan.”  He began his first email with “That was an extremely cheap shot” and ended the email with “I’m sure there won’t be a retraction forthcoming but I would hope in the future, you get both sides of a story before mistakenly casting the finger of shame.  I’m available at 202-402-6628 ([email protected]) for the facts on any future stories about HUD veterans.   We attempted to reach Mr. Brown before this story was completed for comment, but to no avail.  It seems that this HUD Lt. Colonel talks the talk, but doesn’t want to walk the walk

From:Brown, Jereon M [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Monday, November 07, 2011 8:54 AM
To: ‘kensmith’
Subject: HUDVET Story

Ken,  that was an extremely cheap shot you took at Secretary Donovan concerning the HUDVET office.  This Administration has made significant strides to put vouchers in the hands of thousands of homeless veterans.  If you would have searched “HUD AND Veterans” on Google, Yahoo or Bing, you would have a more accurate assessment of what both Administration accomplished.

Respectfully,

Jereon M. Brown (Lt. Col. USAF ret)

Deputy Assistant Secretary

Office of Public Affairs

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

What this HUD Lt. Colonel was attempting to make me understand in his email (shown above) was that Housing and Urban Development gives vouchers to the Department of Veterans Affairs, for use by Veterans who are Homeless.  What I was trying to make him understand was that HUD is the 3rd largest Veterans services agency in the United States right behind the Department of Veterans Affairs, (VA)  and Department of Defense,   (DOD), servicing millions of Veterans in other programs besides homelessness which is their flagship Veterans Program.  What I was really trying to make him understand was that HUD is the 3rd largest Veterans service agency in the United States. Period.

For example, we already know that HUD, through it’s “Fannie Mae” division, services over 19 million VA “First Mortgages” and roughly, 2.3 million “Second Mortgages.”  HUD has an HIV/AIDS program run through its Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD) division, and that program services veterans. HUD is the funding agency for billions of dollars annually in programs for the homeless, disabled and elderly, including veterans.

Via email, I confirmed a telephone call appointment with Lt. Colonel Brown for 3pm on Thursday, the 10th, to discuss the following questions Veterans Today readers have sent onto me concerning HUD.  He did not return my calls

  1. Lt. Col. Brown, You’re the official spokesperson for HUD?
  2. When did HUD start to count Veterans disability compensation as income to determine eligibility?
  3. How many Veterans have been denied low income and/or disability housing by HUD based on that formula?
  4. My readers want to know how many members of the active duty military,and in addition, how many Veterans and family members of Veterans does HUD serve?
  5. Veterans and active duty military and their families make up more then 10% of the US Population, “Do you know the percentage of veterans served by HUD?”
  6. How many of HUD’s Federal contractors are “SDVOB’s” or “Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses” working on HUD specific contracts?
  7. Can you explain  “Why Secretary Donovan considers all Veterans and active duty military and their families as “Special Needs.”
In another email, HUD spokesman, Lt. Colonel Brown,  speaking to the question of when HUD started to count Veteran Disability Compensation in its formula to determine who gets into HUD disability housing said:

Mr. Smith, we’re researching that point.  So far I’ve pulled testimony that shows the policy has been in place since early 2000.  I’ve also found testimony that it was supposed to be reconsidered in 2004 but obviously that didn’t take place.  We’ll continue to research and I’ll definitely get back to you. Concerning the number of veterans serviced by HUD, the numbers are in the millions when you consider VA loans, the Office of Fair Housing, the Office of Community Planning and Development and our work with other agencies.  We do not do a headcount in each program area, we’re simply trying to help as many folks as we can.  We’re extremely pleased that we are serving a large number of those who have served.

Well Colonel, that’s just not good enough.  Let me tell you why.  If your a Veteran and you apply for local HUD with Americans with Disabilities Act compliant housing (bathrooms, ramps, etc.) the more severe your service connected disability, the higher chance your not eligible for that housing.  Here’s why.  HUD requires local Housing Authories to count VA disability compensation as income in a formula to see if you financially qualify.  We know that the IRS does not consider VA disability compensation as income, it’s non Taxable.  The VA does not view it’s disability compensation as income, nor does Department of Labor and I venture to say most of the elected members of Congress wouldn’t consider Veterans disability compensation as income if asked.  So why does HUD?  Compensated disabled Veterans are being denied HUD housing and yet they can’t tell us how many, because they don’t count veterans.  Someone’s grandfather or Uncle is denied federal housing because the Veteran was wounded or injured in the service of our nation?.  Does that make sense?  It doesn’t to the readers





When I asked, how many Veterans does HUD serve?, trying to get information about this tragedy, the spokesman of the Secretary  said “We don’t count Veterans.”   Now, Colonel Brown,  your a Veteran,  let me ask you , once again, “How many Veterans does HUD serve in all of its programs?”  Can you understand sir that its important for the 3rd largest Veteran services Federal agency to at least have a “Ball Park” number?

Let me repeat, if your a Korean War Veteran or an older Vietnam Veteran, and you apply for HUD ADA compliant low income housing  with ramps, ADA bathrooms, etc, and you were wounded in the military and receive disability compensation, the more severe your service connected disability the lower your chance of getting accepted into HUD housing.  Here;s why.   HUD counts your VA disability compensation in a formula that HUD uses to see if you financially qualify and yet, the IRS doensn’t see disability compensation as income, the VA doens’t see that as income, DOL doesn’t see that as income, but because HUD does, the combat wounded Veteran is denied.  Denied because the Veteran was wounded defending our nation.  Does that make sense?  Doesn’t to me.  And when I asked, how many Veterans do you serve, trying to get information about this tragedy, the spokesman of the Secretary  says “We don’t count Veterans”

Now,  Mr. Brown is a Veteran.  Let me ask you here Mr Brown, once again,  “How many Veterans Does HUD service every year in all of its programs?“,  can you understand that its important for the 3rd largest Veteran service Federal agency to at least have a “Ball Park” number?

I know White House and Congressional staff read this column.  You need to make sure that HUD, which seems to be running in circles in respect to Veterans issues, gets some adult leadership.  HUD should be able to tell the President at any time, how many Veterans it serves with “PRIDE”, and not hide behind some bureaucratic gobbley gook excuse about how hard it is to count Veterans.

Along with my readers , we are sick and tired of our nations Veterans and active duty military still being considered as Special Needs cases by HUD.  They are not.  We are also concerned about HUD’s continual public relations portrayal of  Veterans as homeless and mentally ill or substance abusers.  They are not.   We believe that the video you show of an elderly veteran and his dog sitting in a city sidewalk gutter really is a picture of a Veteran denied HUD elderly housing.  Is that true?.  Who is that Veteran that is portrayed in the YouTube video that you sent to this columnist as proof of your actions to veterans.

[youtube Kb0pzfAnLI8]

As  founder and former Executive Director of one of  the most successful Homeless Reintegration Shelters for Veterans in the United States today I know that young, recently discharged Veterans who are homeless have pride in themselves and in their service to our country.  HUD programs need to build on that pride and equip them with the skills necessary to deal with the social and economic situations confronting them today.  To approach the issue of HUD services to Veterans based on the belief that they are all “Special Needs” cases is foolish and obviously designed and implemented by those who have a limited, dated and obscure concept on how to serve this population.   I agree with President Obama that the focus on homelessness among military Veterans should be, and must be on prevention and not a continuation of the stereotypical mindset that all Veterans who are homeless are degenerate bums best served by the nations  Federal housing and community development agency by having a photo op of the HUD Secretary giving section 8 vouchers to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

HUD should be able to tell the President how many Veterans it has serviced with “PRIDE”, and not hide behind some bureaucratic gobbly gook about how hard it is to count Veterans.

Finally, on HUD’s website for Veterans day there is a story:

Our Veterans Deserve The Right To Live Free From Housing Discrimination.

Practice what you Preach Mr. Secretary, when you deny a wounded Veteran HUD housing based on his Disability Compensation, that’s Discrimination.

Remember: Veterans Count!  And they also vote.

 

 

Author Details
For more than twenty-five years Ken Smith has been a leading advocate for veterans. A combat Vietnam veteran, Ken served during 1971-72 as a paramedic and an infantry squad leader with Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry, in the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. After his discharge, Ken continued his work as a paramedic in New England. On the streets of Boston he encountered growing numbers of homeless Vietnam veterans, and he became determined to both assist them and draw attention to their plight. In 1989, Ken founded the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans, located in a former VA hospital at 17 Court Street in downtown Boston. One of the first facilities designed for homeless veterans and now a national model, the shelter has served over 35,000 of America’s veterans who, for whatever reason, find themselves living on the streets. In 1992 Ken was awarded Point of Light #142 by President George H. W. Bush, and later that same year received the AMVETS Silver Helmet Award, considered the “Oscar” for American veterans. As one of America’s foremost veterans service organizations, AMVETS (or American Veterans) has a proud history of assisting veterans and sponsoring numerous programs that serve our country and its citizens. Ken was awarded this honor along with Peter Coors, with whom he still maintains a personal friendship. Over the years Ken has appeared on many national media programs including Good Morning America, Prime Time Live, ABC News, CBS News, Larry King Live, CNN, 60 Minutes, and The Geraldo Show. He has been quoted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, and numerous international newspapers, magazines, and websites. In 1992, Ken had the distinction of addressing both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions as a keynote speaker on the subject of veterans. Ken recently left his last assignment with the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, where he was the chief technology architect of the Veteran’s Vocational Technical Institute, Purple Heart Car Donation program, Purple Heart Call Center, Purple Heart Radio, Purple Heart Tech Support, Purple Heart Services, and over thirty new Purple Heart websites. Ken Smith provided the vision and has overseen the implementation of innovative, virtual, work-at-home training programs for veterans with combat disabilities. Ken has designed, upgraded, and supervised the integration and installation of Purple Heart Service Foundations computer and telephony systems, upgrading features from legacy POTS phones to SIP-trunked communications systems including establishing new VPN networks for teams of remote virtual employees. An adventure sports enthusiast, Ken enjoys extreme skiing, competitive sailing, flying, and travel. He has traveled extensively worldwide, delivering his positive message to the veterans of other countries that a paraplegic veteran of the United States suffers the same as a paraplegic veteran of India; that an amputee veteran of Nepal suffers as much as an amputee veteran of France. Ken’s mentor was Harold Russell, the two-time Academy Award winner who starred in the 1946 film Best Years of Our Lives. A World War II veteran, on D-Day, June 6th, 1944, Harold lost both of his hands. This ghastly misfortune did not stop him, and he went on to become the chairman of the President’s Committee for People with Disabilities. For over fifty years he served US presidents from Truman to Clinton. Ken was humbled and grateful when Harold agreed to serve as the best man at Ken’s wedding. Ken has been instrumental in the planning stages for the Veterans Workshop, a new nationwide veterans’ advocacy group building a new “Veterans Hotline, and the development of special programs for those who have lost their sight or their hearing, or who have suffered spinal cord injury, as a result of their military experience. The Veterans Workshop provides a forum where new technology and advancements in the fields of prosthetic and orthotic solutions, many designed by Ken, are shared along with virtual training and employment programs. A 1970 graduate of De La Salle Academy in Newport, Rhode Island, for the past twenty-five years Ken has continued his education with extensive college courses in computer technology and related social service fields. He resides in his native state of Rhode Island with his wife and children.
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