VA lets veteran become homeless after pledging to help

ASHEVILLE, NC (WBTV) - Social workers at the Asheville VA Medical Center have failed to help a veteran find alternate living arrangements for a homeless veteran who was kicked out of a veterans living facility after trying to blow the whistle on the charity that operates the veterans home.

Greg Armento has lived at the Veterans Restoration Quarters operated by the Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry, known as ABCCM, since 2015. The facility provides housing and food to veterans who would otherwise be homeless through a program paid for by the US Department of Veterans Affairs called the Grant Per Diem program.

Under the GPD program, ABCCM collects roughly $1,300 each month for every veteran housed in its facility. The program is designed for veterans to receive funding through the program for up to two years but the federal law governing the program allows for extensions.

But Armento was kicked out of ABCCM's facility on September 5, 2017 - exactly two years after he started at the facility under the GPD program. Armento was told he would have to leave the facility on September 5 after filing a federal lawsuit against ABCCM questioning the organization's practice of forcing residents to provide unpaid labor at the Veterans Restoration Quarters as a requirement to continue living at the facility as part of the VA program.

In an email to WBTV, the charity's executive director would only say that Armento was being made to leave because he had exhausted his benefit under the program.

A spokeswoman for the Asheville VAMC told WBTV the same thing. But neither the charity nor the VA spokeswoman would acknowledge a provision in the law governing the GPD program that allows for a veteran's stay in the program to be extended.

The GPD handbook issued by the VA says a veteran's participation in the program can be extended "if permanent housing for the Veteran has not been located or if the Veteran requires additional time to prepare for independent living."

The VA spokeswoman told WBTV it did not have the authority to force ABCCM to retain Armento as a resident but did not respond to repeated questions about whether the VA's social workers ever asked ABCCM to continue to house Armento.

In a court filing, the charity told a federal judge that it would not continue to receive federal funding for housing Armento past September 5; the VA has not said whether it would be willing to continue funding Armento's stay, as allowed by the law.

**Watch WBTV on Thursday night at 6:00 to hear more about Armento's claims against ABCCM and the VA**

On Monday, two VA spokeswoman told WBTV that the federal agency tasked with caring for our nation's veterans would ensure he had a place to live after September 5. That still has not happened as of Wednesday, September 6.

Additionally, a VA spokeswoman has yet to provide documents proving the VA had offered Armento alternate housing arrangements prior to September 5, which the VA has claimed it did.

Armento had been admitted to the Asheville VAMC over the weekend for treatment of an unspecified medical condition, where he remained through September 6. It is not clear when he will be discharged and where he will live once he leaves the hospital.

On Tuesday, a VA spokeswoman said social workers at the hospital were working on a discharge plan for Armento but was not specific on whether that plan would include long-term housing.

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