The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was hit with a civil rights lawsuit late Tuesday by homeless veterans in Los Angeles and their advocates. The plaintiffs are accusing the agency of misusing a huge VA campus in West LA and breaking a promise to build 1,200 affordable apartments there. Instead, the complaint says, the VA routinely pushes the region’s neediest veterans into temporary shelters, psychiatric facilities, and jails — depriving them of housing and health care benefits.
The 14 veterans behind the suit, who are all unhoused and all suffer from serious mental or physical disabilities, are asking a federal court to force the VA to improve housing access for disabled veterans on and near the VA’s 388-acre West Los Angeles medical campus. They also want to ban the VA from entering lease agreements on that campus — which was donated to the government specifically to house veterans — with outside renters that have nothing to do with veteran care. The National Veterans Federation, an advocacy organization, is also a plaintiff.
The case is essentially a do-over of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2011 on behalf of a different group of homeless veterans. The public interest attorney behind both suits, Mark Rosenbaum, says he regrets resolving the first case with a good faith agreement for the VA to build housing on its West LA campus. Seven years later, the VA has completed only a tiny fraction of what it promised. The only recourse, Rosenbaum says, is to sue again.