Veterans Affairs officials will deploy 25 mobile medical units to cities across the United States over the next six months in an effort to boost homelessness prevention and assistance efforts, department leaders announced Thursday.
The first unit arrived in Orlando, Florida, on Thursday morning. The vehicles are staffed by a variety of medical providers and have private space for veterans to receive services such as primary care, mental health assistance and telehealth services.
The mobile units have been used in the past as part of disaster relief efforts and to help with initiatives like rural veterans health care enrollment. Now, they’ll be part of the department’s stated goal of finding housing for at least 38,000 veterans this year, and providing support services to go along with that newfound stability.
“Veterans experiencing homelessness face a variety of barriers to accessing health care, including a lack of transportation,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. “With these new mobile medical units, homeless and at-risk veterans don’t have to visit VA hospitals. We come right to them.”
The number of veterans experiencing homelessness dropped more than 11% from the start of 2020 to early 2022, according to the most recent data from federal researchers. But about 33,000 veterans across the country are without reliable housing options on any given night in America.
Advocates have been worried about an increase in that number this year following the rollback of several services aimed at homeless veterans in mid-May, when the national emergency related to the coronavirus pandemic officially ended.
The most concerning was a decrease in daily support stipends for veterans facing financial problems. Officials from the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans said that assistance dropped by more than half in some regions, leaving non-profits scrambling to find money to keep veterans sheltered.
Reinstating those authorities will require action from Congress, but so far negotiations have stalled amid a host of partisan fights over the federal budget. The mobile medical units do not require any such congressional approval.
The 25 medical units join 83 mobile veteran centers already deployed across the country to provide more convenient counseling and benefits services to veterans.
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.