Politics

Why Trump's Plan to Expand the Military Could Hurt Veterans

President Donald Trump wants to make the military bigger, but his plan to fund that expansion could hurt low-income veterans. 

A sign by a homeless veteran.

Budget documents obtained by The Washington Post show that the Trump administration is considering taking $6 billion from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to use for the military budget. The U.S. already spends more on its armed forced than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, France, India, and Germany — combined, according to New York Magazine. 

HUD 2016 Homelessness Assessment

This plan to expand the military would take resources from important programs for low-income and homeless veterans, including affordable housing projects, urban community development projects, meal assistance, and vouchers designed to help homeless veterans.

The city of Los Angeles has one of the highest populations of chronically homeless people in the country. In 2014, Mayor Eric Garcetti pledged to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, a pledge he hasn't been able to meet. Federal budget cuts won't make meeting it any easier, but Garcetti's press secretary, George Kivork, told ATTN: the city is bracing for the worst.

"Given reports that the new federal budget may erode support for vital housing and community development programs serving the working poor, we are preparing for potential cuts in discretionary funding that the new administration may pursue," Kivork said in a statement to ATTN:. "Los Angeles will push forward with local policies to fill any potential funding gaps, and work with our representatives in Washington to strengthen America's commitment to protecting families that rely on assistance."

Here's what HUD told ATTN: about homeless veterans across the country: 

  • Since 2008, there have been more than 79,000 vouchers and more than 111,000 homeless veterans served through the HUD-VASH program, a program from HUD and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that provides housing vouchers and clinical services at VA clinics.
  • On any night in January 2016, HUD estimated that 39,471 veterans were homeless.
  • More than a third of homeless veterans were found in places "not suitable for human habitation."

A map of homeless veterans in each state.

ATTN: asked Randy Brown, director of communications at the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, about the importance of HUD. 

Brown said that $6 billion in cuts to the department would exacerbate the affordable housing shortage and reduce the services HUD provides for veterans and their families.

"Lack of affordable housing plays a large role in veteran homelessness," Brown said in an email. "In communities across the country, veterans who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness are impacted by a lack of housing options."

A homeless person on a bench.

HUD resources are also an important safety net for low-income veterans who are are vulnerable to homelessness. 

"If you are barely making rent and lose your job, you are at risk of homelessness. If you have a health issue that prevents you from being able to work, you are at risk of homelessness," Brown wrote. "For veterans who find themselves facing challenges in these areas, the support available through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Labor is vital."

RELATED: Trump's Hiring Freeze is Already Hurting Veterans