WASHINGTON — As its self-imposed deadline to
end veterans homelessness approaches, the
Department of Veterans Affairs has launched
a new program to hire more than 150
employment specialists across the country.
The new community employment coordinators
are meant to connect “job-ready” homeless
veterans with potential employers, according
to VA officials speaking on a media
conference call Wednesday. The $15 million
program aims to put a coordinator at each of
the VA’s more than 150 medical centers, and
officials said the department has filled all
but about 20 positions.
Getting veterans back to work is an
important step in making them feel like they
are part of society again, VA Director of
Homeless Veteran Community Employment
Services Carma Heitzmann said.
“Community integration is obviously a
critical component of ending veteran
homelessness,” she said.
In 2010, President Barack Obama and the VA
launched the Ending Veterans Homelessness
initiative, with the goal of getting every
veteran off the street by2016. The VA says
its efforts have cut the homeless rate among
veterans by more than 30 percent since that
pledge, and current estimates put the
homeless veterans population at 50,000. Some
homelessness advocates have criticized the
goal as unrealistic, but VA officials say
with less than seven months to go in 2015,
they are still committed to the timeline.
“Our goal remains the same and we have a
network of support services to make that
happen,” Heitzmann said.
Kelly Matthew, the community employment
coordinator for the Greater Los Angeles VA
Medical Center and a former US Army medic,
said many of her clients need to work
through problems such as gaps in employment
history, criminal records and concerns about
loss of benefits if they resume work. Often,
Matthews says, her first visit with homeless
veterans may not lead directly to employment
but pave the way for a longer-term goal.
“A big piece of what we’re doing is working
on education,” she said. “You don’t have to
be ready to go back to work today, but maybe
in a few months that might be something you
want to look into.”
Community employment coordinators will be
General Schedule 11 employees, meaning a
base salary of $51,000 to $66,000, depending
A list of the current community employment
coordinators, organized by state, can be
If the entry has no name, it means the VA
has not yet hired for that position.