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What should I know about VASH Vouchers?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
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VASH Vouchers in Georgia Resources

VASH Vouchers in Georgia

What should I know? +

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What is HUD-VASH?

HUD-VASH stands for Housing and Urban Development- Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing. HUD-VASH is a program by both HUD and the VA for homeless veterans. The program combines:

  • Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance and 

  • Case management and clinical services by the VA. 

 

The HUD-VASH vouchers are set aside by Public Housing Agencies for homeless veterans. Veterans must be screened and referred to a Public Housing Authority by a VA Medical Center (VAMC).

 

How does housing work with a VASH voucher?

The HUD-VASH program pays all or a part of your rent to a private landlord. Under VASH, you would pay only about 30% of your income in rent. The landlord signs a Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) contract with the housing authority. The HAP includes a Tenancy Addendum. This addendum explains your rights and responsibilities. You may have a second lease with the landlord. If terms in your lease are different than the HAP, the HAP terms are the ones that are enforceable.

 

If you are approved for a voucher, with the help of a VA case manager, you must then find a landlord willing to accept the voucher. Once you find a landlord, the rental property must pass inspection by the public housing authority. After the unit passes inspection, the housing authority will sign a HAP contract with your landlord. Your landlord may ask you to sign a separate lease. You should never sign a lease with the landlord before the HAP is signed. If you do, you may then be “on the hook” for market rent if something goes wrong with the HAP process. Your VA case manager will help you with this process.

 

At the end of your lease the voucher program allows you to move within the jurisdiction of your local VA Medical Center without losing your voucher. The landlord cannot evict you during the initial term of the lease except for non-payment of your rent or for good cause. At the end of each lease you or the landlord can choose not to renew the lease. 

 

How do the clinical and case management services work with a VASH voucher? 

Each veteran is paired with a VA case manager who works as a liaison between the veteran and:

  • landlords,

  • the Public Housing Authority, and

  • community-based service providers.

 

The case manager will help you:

  • Find housing,

  • Understand and work through the Public Housing Authority procedures,

  • Sign your lease, and 

  • Plan your move. 

 

The goal of VASH is to give veterans the services they need to recover from homelessness. These services might include:

  • Referrals to VA primary care,

  • Mental health treatment,

  • Substance abuse treatment,

  • Income assistance,

  • Employment support,

  • Disability benefits,

  • Credit repair help,

  • Skills for money management.

 

Participation in case management is mandatory for the VASH program and you should expect to see your case manager, in your home, at least once a month.

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What are my rights and responsibilities?

With the HUD-VASH program you have the right to a variety of services from the VA. Participating in case management services is a condition of your VASH voucher. If you fail to participate, your voucher may be terminated.

 

Your rights and duties as a subsidized housing "tenant" are the same for any landlord-tenant relationship. You must:

  • comply with the lease and the program requirements, 

  • pay your share of rent on time, 

  • maintain the unit in good condition, and 

  • notify the housing authority of any changes in income or family size.

 

If your assistance is terminated by the housing authority, you will now be responsible for the full rent amount. However, you have the right to an informal hearing with the housing authority if:

  • Your application is denied;

  • Your income is recalculated;

  • Your utility allowance is recalculated;

  • Your family unit size is determined;

  • Your assistance is terminated. 

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What are the landlord’s rights and responsibilities?

The housing authority administers the voucher program. If the landlord does not meet their obligations under the lease, the housing authority may stop payments to the landlord. You will get a new voucher. The landlord must:

  • Screen families who apply to determine their suitability as renters.

  • Comply with fair housing laws.

  • Maintain the housing unit. They must make necessary repairs in a timely manner and report their completion to the housing authority.

  • Comply with the terms of the Housing Assistance Payments Contract.

  • Collect the rent due by the tenant and comply with and enforce the lease.

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What are the housing authority’s rights and responsibilities?

The housing authority has the right to deny or terminate assistance if you: 

  • do not qualify for the program because either:

    • Your income is too high, or

    • You or someone in your household is on the Lifetime Sex Offender Registry.

  • you violate the terms of your lease, by: 

    • Not paying rent,

    • Damaging the property,

    • Interfering with other residents,

    • Engaging in criminal activity,

    • Or any other activity that leads to eviction.

 

The housing authority is responsible for creating procedures for informal hearings. The housing authority must give you written notice informing you of the procedures when a decision is made that entitles you to a hearing. The notice must include the deadline for requesting the hearing.

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What can I do? +

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How can I qualify for a VASH voucher?

There are two steps to qualify for the HUD-VASH program. First, you must meet the VA requirements. These requirements are:

  • You are eligible for VA Health Care Services,

  • You need case management services to get and keep independent community housing, and

  • You are homeless. For the VA, homelessness is defined as:

    • You do not have a permanent place to sleep, or

    • You sleep at a shelter, welfare hotel, transitional, or temporary housing facility.

 

The VA prioritizes Veterans who:

  • Are suffering from mental health and/or medical complications;

  • Have been homeless for one year or longer; or

  • Have been homeless four or more times in the past three years.

 

If you are approved and referred by the VA HUD-VASH case manager, you must next meet the public housing authority’s guidelines. To get a VASH voucher, the public housing authority requires that:

  • Your income must not be greater than 50% of the area median income, which is determined by the area or county you live in.

  • No member of your household is on the Lifetime Sexual Offender registry. As long as the sex offender is not the veteran, your family may still be approved if you agree that the sex offender will not live in the home. 

 

If you meet these requirements, you cannot be denied a voucher by the Public Housing Authority for any other reason, including:

  • If you or a household member owes money to the public housing administration in connection with a Section 8 or public housing program.

  • Any previous behavior of you or a family member, other than lifetime sex offender status.

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How can I apply for a VASH voucher?

To apply for a VASH voucher, you need to contact your local VA Homeless Program. You can:

  • Visit your local VA Medical Center in person and ask for a Homeless Coordinator.

  • Call the VA’s services for homeless and at-risk Veterans at 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838).

 

The HUD-VASH case manager at the VA will make a decision on whether to refer you to the Public Housing Authority. If you do get a referral, you will need to verify your income with the housing authority.

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Can I move with a VASH voucher?

You can use your voucher to live anywhere within the jurisdiction of the VA Medical Center where you get your case management services. 

 

You will only be able to transfer your HUD-VASH voucher for a long distance move if:

  • The VA Medical Center in the area where you want to move can serve your family, and

  • The public housing authority that is partnering with that VA medical center has an available HUD-VASH voucher.

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What happens once I find a unit and it passes inspection?

Once the housing authority approves an eligible family's lease and housing unit: 

  • the family and the landlord sign a lease and, at the same time,

  • the landlord and housing authority sign a housing assistance contract which runs for the same term as the lease.

This means that you, the landlord and housing authority all have responsibilities within the program. Remember, even if you have a separate lease with your landlord, the HAP contract rules are the ones that everyone must follow. This is true even if they are different from the terms of your lease with the landlord.

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What do I do if I have a dispute with my Housing Authority?

There are certain circumstances where you are entitled to an “informal hearing” with the housing authority. You must have the opportunity for an informal hearing if:

  • Your application is denied;

  • Your income is recalculated;

  • Your utility allowance is recalculated;

  • Your family unit size is determined;

  • Your assistance is terminated, either by:

    • The housing authority because you violated your least, or

    • The VA because you did not comply with your case management obligations.

 

Each PHA creates its own procedures for informal hearings. However, your PHA must give you written notice informing you of the procedures when a decision is made that entitles you to a hearing. The notice must include the deadline for requesting the hearing. Contact Atlanta Legal Aid Society or Georgia Legal Services, if:

  • you receive a notice of “proposed termination” of your voucher, or 

  • you have a dispute with your housing authority, 

 

Before your hearing, you are entitled to review your tenant file at the housing authority. You are allowed to make copies of any relevant documents, but the housing authority can charge you reasonable fees for copies. 

 

If the hearing is on a notice of proposed termination, the housing authority will present its information first. They will try to show why your voucher should be terminated. If your hearing is for another reason, then you may be asked to go first. In either case, you will have a chance to present your side of the story. You can bring witnesses to your hearing and cross-examine the housing authority’s witnesses. An impartial hearing officer, who may or may not be an employee of the housing authority, will make a final decision in your case. They may or may not tell you that decision at the hearing. In any case, you are entitled to, and should receive, written notice of the hearing officer’s decision in the mail.

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Can the voucher stay with the family if the Veteran dies?

If the veteran dies, the voucher stays with the remaining family members. 

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If the veteran commits an act of domestic violence and is terminated from the program, what happens to the voucher? 

If a member of a family with a VASH voucher is a victim of:

  • domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking AND 

  • the perpetrator is the veteran, THEN

  • the veteran will be terminated from the HUD-VASH program, BUT

  • the victim can continue to use the VASH voucher. 

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Resources

Last Review and Update: Nov 26, 2019