Veterans Affairs leaders on Thursday promised a full review of their housing assistance staffing levels and outreach programs as they announced their target of aiding at least 41,000 veterans facing homelessness this year, an increase over last year’s goal.

In an event at the Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center, VA Deputy Secretary Tanya Bradsher said the hope is that the higher figure will lead to an overall decrease in the number of veterans experiencing homelessness.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the total number of veterans without reliable housing rose about 7% from 2022 to 2023, the first such increase in six years.

“We need to reverse last year’s trend and get back on track, because even one veteran experiencing homelessness is one too many,” Bradsher said.

The 41,000 veterans goal includes a pledge to get each individual into permanent — not transitional — housing programs and that at least 95% of individuals helped will not return to unstable housing situations within the year.

VA officials last year set a target of 38,000 but reported in January they had actually assisted more than 46,000 veterans. When asked if the 2024 goal of 41,000 was too low, Bradsher said she expects staff aim to exceed it.

“I know after spending a lot of time with our homeless program teams across the country that they look at this as the floor, and they will set the bar much higher,” she said.

“We want to make sure that we have all the staffing that we need at our homeless program offices, make sure that they have all the resources that they need. So, I’m comfortable with the 41,000 being aggressive enough.”

Advocates said those staffing reviews will be key in reaching the targets.

“I urge senior VA leadership not only to establish their goals but also to support them with concrete actions,” said Kathryn Monet, CEO of the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans.

“It’s crucial for VA medical center directors to recognize their capacity and be actively encouraged to fill critical positions. These roles are essential for managing outreach efforts to unsheltered veterans and facilitating effective case management.”

On Wednesday, Monet testified before Congress on her organization’s priorities for the year, including boosting resources for homeless veterans at VA and pushing lawmakers to reauthorize a host of coronavirus pandemic authorities designed to prevent homelessness among veterans.

Those authorities expired at the end of the national emergency in May 2023.

“The best time to act upon that legislation would have been before the public health emergency ended,” she said. “But the second-best time to act upon this legislation is now.”

The new VA goals also include specific targets for assistance in Los Angeles, the city with the highest numbers of homeless veterans.

Officials are aiming to permanently house at least 1,605 veterans there and work with more than 2,100 others to help them obtain housing and other services.

Veterans seeking help with homelessness or related financial problems can call 877-424-3838 for help or visit the department’s website.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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