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.

 

 

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