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First Lady Challenges Mayors to Help End Veteran Homelessness


First lady Michelle Obama speaks at a Joining Forces initiative event to announcing "The Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness" program, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, June 4, 2014.

First lady Michelle Obama speaks at a Joining Forces initiative event to announcing "The Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness" program, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, June 4, 2014.

First Lady Michelle Obama said the fact that 58,000 veterans are homeless in the United States is a "moral outrage."

The first lady announced the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness on Wednesday at the White House. She applauded the commitment of 77 mayors, four governors and four county officials to help meet the administration's goal to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.

Obama told mayors and other public officials in attendance that the administration and its state and local partners already have decreased homelessness among veterans by 24 percent in the last three years. She praised the work that has lowered the rate to just 0.3 percent of all veterans, but noted that "even one homeless veteran is a shame."

Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson thanked the mayors for taking up the challenge and said the initiative needs officials on the ground in every city.

Gibson said the plan in place is a "winning strategy" for veterans that gets them into housing first so the government can then help meet their clinical needs. He said the Department of Veterans Affairs is "moving immediately to get veterans off wait lists and into clinics."

The agency is recovering from a recent scandal involving revelations that veterans' medical facilities had kept phantom waiting lists, falsifying records to hide waiting times that -- according to an internal audit -- were an average of 115 days long at one hospital.

Eric Shinseki, the man who headed the agency in charge of veterans' matters, resigned Friday in the midst of the scandal.

Critics say the practice endangered the lives of thousands of veterans, including those returning from recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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