VAMC West Los Angeles

Posted: April 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

Three homeless Southern California veterans suing the U.S. Department Veterans Affairs for failing to provide proper housing say court-ordered mediation has not worked and are requesting the case be brought to trial in June. The veterans say in court papers filed 14 MAR in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles that only one mediation session was held last fall and the case then fell dormant. The veterans' lawyer, David Sapp of the American Civil Liberties Union-Southern California, says a trial is needed urgently because the men are mentally disabled and homeless. Veteran Affairs spokesman Dave Bayard says he cannot comment on pending litigation.
The ACLU sued the VA in June, saying the agency had misused large portions of its campus on L.A.'s Westside, and had failed to provide adequate housing and treatment for homeless veterans. The ACLU decried “enhanced sharing” agreements that have allowed entities not related to veteran care to use much of the sprawling campus at Wilshire and San Vicente boulevards. Enterprise Rent-a-Car, the UCLA baseball team and the private Brentwood School are among entities that lease portions of the campus even as thousands of veterans occupy streets and alleys, the ACLU said. The VA sought to have the case dismissed. In a ruling 16 MAR Judge Ortero essentially denied most of VA's attempt to have the lawsuit dismissed. Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, hailed the ruling as “the first time in the nation's history that a federal court has held the VA responsible for assuring that severely mentally disabled veterans have access to housing and services … they require to heal the wounds of war.” In addition, the Judge held that Congress has made “crystal clear that [its] intention was to ensure that the DVA’s land [the campus at Wilshire and San Vicente] was used primarily to benefit veterans.”
The lawsuit can now proceed and a favorable decision would mean that the VA campus in Los Angeles must be restored to its intended purpose to serve veterans, not house UCLA and private school baseball diamonds, dog parks and rental car lots. The ruling on Case No. CY 11-04846 SJO (MRWx) Gregory Valentini, et al. v. Eric Shinseki, et al. reads:
For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Defendants' Motion, disposing of the claims as follows:
(1) To the extent Claim One rests on the theory that there is a policy, rule, or regulation that on its face bars veterans with severe mental illness or who take psychotropic medication from obtaining an existing benefit offered by the VA GLA, the Claim is DISMISSED WITH LEAVE TO AMEND; to the extent Claim One rests on the theory that the Government fails to provide permanent supportive housing, the Claim is DISMISSED WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND;
(2) The Motion is DENIED with respect to Claim Two;
(3) Claims Three, Four, and Five are DISMISSED WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND;
(4) The Motion is DENIED with respect to Claim Six.
The complete 41 page Civil Minutes of the case can be read at [Source: Associated Press and LA Times articles 14 & 16 Mar 2012 ++]


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