Vets Advocacy is a privately funded, non-profit organization facilitating revitalization of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs West Los Angeles campus as a condition of the Valentini v Shinseki settlement.
Scroll the timeline below to view select achievements in Vets Advocacy’s history.
Valentini et al. v Shinseki et al. was filed on behalf of homeless veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America and Carolina Barrie. The suit argued that VA’s benefits program discriminated against veterans who are homeless as a result of their severe mental disabilities. It also argued that the 388-acre VA West Los Angeles campus, donated to the federal government in 1888 for the purpose of housing severely injured veterans, was misappropriated for uses that in no way provided housing or healthcare services to veterans.
The Honorable S. James Otero ruled that the VA violated federal law when it leased portions of its West Los Angeles campus to 11 businesses and organizations for purposes unrelated to providing medical treatment to homeless veterans. The court did not specify remedy and encouraged settlement negotiations between the parties.
VA Secretary Bob McDonald and Plaintiff Partners sign the “Principles for Partnership and Framework for Settlement” agreement which called for the creation of a veterans homelessness strategy, mutual cooperation in the development of a Master Plan to set out the most effective use of the campus for veterans, development of an exit strategy for leases not pertaining to veteran healthcare or housing and the creation of a non-profit entity (Vets Advocacy) to assist in such efforts. Both parties also agreed to file a joint motion to the District Court that would vacate its judgment in Valentini v. McDonald.
Vets Advocacy worked closely with experts within VA to develop a written veteran homelessness strategy and action plan for Greater LA, building upon plans that the parties' experts had developed, to implement improvements in care and services for homeless veterans throughout the community, consistent with best practices and evidence-based approaches under the Housing First model.
In June 2015, VA selected a team composed of HOK, Walsh Group and Core Companies to develop a master plan for the VA West Los Angeles campus. Initially Vets Advocacy hired world renown urban planning firm Johnson Fain to review the draft work product produced by the VA team. Ultimately Vets Advocacy decided the current VA plan was insufficient and contracted Johnson Fain to create an improved Master Plan.
VA Secretary Bob McDonald formally adopts West Los Angeles Campus Draft Framework Master Plan at a ceremony held at VA West Los Angeles. The public comment period closed with a record breaking 1,032 public comments. Vets Advocacy generated roughly one-third of all public comments by hosting a series of education seminars with local veterans.
The West Los Angeles Leasing Act of 2016 reauthorized leasing activity on the VA West Los Angeles campus under specific veteran-focused activities such as: supportive housing, health and wellness, education, vocational training, legal and federal benefits assistance, family support services and transportation. Vets Advocacy advocated for the inclusion of a federal advisory committee for the purpose of providing advice and recommendations to the VA Secretary on master plan implementation. The desire for an oversight body was the most common request made by veterans who participated in Vets Advocacy’s Master Plan working group.
LA City Council approved up to nearly $24 million for the redevelopment of Buildings 205 and 208 for an additional 119 homes for homeless veterans on the VA West LA campus. These funds are part of the Proposition HHH $1.2 billion homeless housing funding stream that the voters of LA approved in November 2016. This decision sets a precedent for city funding on the VA campus and solidifies the City of Los Angeles as a major funding partner for revitalization of the campus. Vets Advocacy took a leading role in securing this funding by convincing the City Attorney’s office that Proposition HHH funding could be used at the VA campus and urging the Citizen Oversight Commission and the City Council to approve the funding.
Vets Advocacy issues its first report card on the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System’s progress toward fulfilling public commitments in the wake of the landmark Valentini v Shinseki settlement. The report card identifies five programmatic areas for evaluation: Illegal Leases, Master Plan Implementation, Building 209, Federal Advisory Committee Act and HUD-VASH. Each program is evaluated on the basis of compliance with publicly stated goals and commitments, execution time and transparency.
VA Secretary David Shulkin responds to media attention surrounding Vets Advocacy’s Report Card by appointing Darin Selnick, Senior Advisor to the Secretary, as Executive Sponsor for the VA West Los Angeles Master Plan. Mr. Selnick would serve as a conduit between Office of the Secretary, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and local stakeholders in the revitalization effort. Mr. Selnick was eventually replaced by Scott Blackburn, Acting VA Deputy Secretary, as Executive Sponsor.
Vets Advocacy secured a partnership with Los Angeles County to bring Measure H funding to VA West Los Angeles in an unprecedented move to better coordinate federal and county resources for homeless veterans. In March 2016, L.A. County voters overwhelmingly approved Measure H, a $355 million dedicated annual funding stream for 10 years to combat homelessness through services and rental subsidies. Vets Advocacy successfully advocated for, negotiated, and coordinated the first deployment of Measure H funding to the VA West Los Angeles campus under Homeless Initiative Strategy D7.
After an intensive selection process, the Veterans and Community Oversight and Engagement Board (VCOEB) met for the first time at VA West Los Angeles. The advisory committee, chartered in the West Los Angeles Leasing Act of 2016, comprised of 15 voting and 5 non-voting members. The committee would be assigned to three functional areas of expertise: Master Plan, Services and Outreach.
VA Secretary David Shulkin appoints Ms. Meghan Flanz as the VA West Los Angeles Master Plan Executive Director. Ms. Flanz returned to her native Los Angeles with 16 years of leadership experience at the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. She served as VA’s Senior Attorney in Personnel and Labor Law, a Deputy Assistant Secretary in Labor-Management Relations, an Associate General Counsel under Strategic Planning & Education, an Executive Director for the Office of Accountability Review, and an Assistant Secretary for Human Resources & Administration. Ms. Flanz is a key leader in coordinating and maintaining VA relationships with all stakeholders in the VA West Los Angeles revitalization effort.
VA releases the West Los Angeles Principal Developer and Building 207 solicitation in a competitive bid process for private sector affordable housing construction and financing services. The Principal Developer is charged with assisting VA in developing a comprehensive infrastructure plan in addition to building an additional 900 units of permanent supportive housing on campus. The final selection of a Principal Developer is anticipated late Fall 2018.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Ronald L. Olson
Mr. Olson is a Director for multiple international corporations, trusts, and educational institutions. He represented veterans’ interests in the landmark case that legally compelled revitalization of the VA campus in West LA.
Bobby Shriver leads the fight for homeless Veterans’ housing in Los Angeles. He is an activist, attorney, journalist and politician living in Santa Monica, California. Bobby Shriver is a global voice for those in need and the driving force behind Vets Advocacy.
Mr. Garcia is a pillar of the Los Angeles community and decorated Army veteran. He has been an influential member of major Los Angeles public interest commissions since 1974 and continues that work to this day.
Adm. Michael Mullen (USN Ret.)
Adm. Mullen is a Los Angeles native and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is recognized in the veteran community as a distinguished leader in the fight to end veteran homelessness.
Mr. Blasi is Special Counsel for the nation’s largest pro-bono law firm and former President of the National Coalition for the Homeless. His work advocating on behalf of the homeless has made him one of California’s most prominent attorneys.
Jesse CreedExecutive Director
Mr. Creed is an attorney and community activist who is passionate about lawyering to empower communities who have been disenfranchised. He represented veterans' interests in the settlement phase of the Valentini litigation and is Co-Chair of the Los Angeles Region-Community Veterans Engagement Board.
Leah JacksonDirector of Operations
Ms. Jackson is a management and non-profit consultant who is experienced in global leadership movements (TED, Lean In). She specializes in transforming political will into meaningful change.
Anthony AllmanDirector of Outreach
Mr. Allman served in the United Stated Army and is a seasoned veteran advocate. He co-founded Student Veterans of America, worked as a local VFW outreach coordinator and interned in both the U.S. House and Senate. He has also led various technology initiatives serving the veteran community.