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Local Veterans Sue VA for Failing to Build Housing on West Los Angeles VA Campus

Lawsuit contends the agency not meeting legal obligation to house veterans at West Los Angeles VA campus

By Sam Catanzaro

14 veterans are suing the Department of Veterans Affairs, alleging the agency has not lived up to its promise to build affordable housing on the West Los Angeles VA campus. 

The case is essentially a redo of a 2011 case that centered on how the federal government obtained the property West Los Angeles VA sits on. The land was donated to the government in 1887 by Arcadia Bandini de Stearns Baker, a wealthy widow, under the stipulation that it would serve as a home for veterans. The 2011 case alleged that the VA failed to meet its obligations, and a few years later the agency agreed to build 1,200 apartments for veterans. 

Los Angeles veterans are now suing the VA again, saying the agency is not building the housing it promised. The lawsuit contends that this harms disabled veterans since the West Los Angeles VA sits in one of the priciest neighborhoods in Los Angeles County. Plaintiffs argue that if disabled veterans can’t afford rent in the vicinity of the VA’s West Los Angeles Medical Center, the government’s lack of affordable housing on the campus prevents them from accessing the essential healthcare they are entitled to. 

“That’s not just inhumane, and it’s not just immoral, and it’s not just a set of [expletive] lies. It’s also against the law,” said plaintiff attorney Mark Rosenbaum with Public Counsel told NPR. “We trusted the government to come through, and that turned out to be a grievous error.”

The lawsuit also seeks to force the VA to utilize land currently leased to Brentwood School, a parking lot business, an oil-drilling company and UCLA for veteran uses. Last year, a VA Office of Inspector General report found that several of these leases were out of compliance with the agency’s legal obligation to “principally benefit veterans and their families.” The inspector general called out the VA for completing only one building containing 55 units, out of the 480 projected in a four-year target. The inspector general found that “reasons for VA’s limited progress include required environmental impact studies, needed infrastructure upgrades, the need to establish a principal developer enhanced-use lease, and challenges faced by the developers in raising needed funds from public and private sources,” 

The VA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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