Sunday, September 22, 2013

Veteran presents

Los Angeles County has 6,000 homeless veterans on its streets.  Los Angeles County has the largest concentration of homeless veterans in the country.  Many veterans who have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), brain injuries, or other mental disabilities are in particular need of housing, as many veterans who suffer from PTSD have a hard time finding or maintaining employment.

There is 400 acres of land that was donated to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in 1888 and was used for eighty years to house veterans.  But over the last several decades the dormitories used for veterans has been empty and the Veterans Administration has leased parts of the campus to a hotel laundry, a television studio, the private Brentwood School and UCLA for its baseball stadium, and a dog park.

Robert Rosebrock, a veteran, protested the use of the land in this manner by hanging the American flag union side down, indicating distress.  The VA allowed Rosebrock and other veterans to hang American flags right side up.  The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU-SC) filed suit against the VA alleging that there was viewpoint discrimination.

But that was not the point of the lawsuit.  According to the ACLU-SC's chief counsel, Mark Rosenbaum, "the objective of this litigation is to end homelessness among veterans."  If one wants to end homelessness among veterans, one should not go to the Department of Veterans Affairs.  They argued during the lawsuit that it has no legal or any obligation to house mentally disabled veterans.

On August 29, Federal Judge James Otero ruled that the Department of Veterans Affairs has violated federal law by leasing its land to private businesses.  The VA is authorized by Congress to enter into agreements to share land or facilities with those who provide healthcare for veterans.  Under the ruling by Otero, nine of the leases are void.  Judge Otero has ordered that the VA has six months to terminate the leases or appeal the decision.  The reason stated by Otero is that these nine leases have nothing to do with healthcare.

The VA has said that they would house veterans in Brentwood.  They chose three buildings for renovations, five years ago.  Congress appropriated $20 million for the first of these buildings in 2010.  Ground was broken in 2013 and is scheduled for completion in 2014.  With that $20 million, the VA has announced it will renovate a total of 55 rooms.  45 will be single rooms and 10 will be double.  The new apartments will house 65 people for $20 million.

This is an embarrassment.  This is how we treat veterans? Just remember what the VA says, they are under no legal obligation or other obligation for the VA to house veterans.  If you ever walk down Skid Row in Los Angeles and see some of the 6000 homeless veterans, just remember what is happening.  


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