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Home / lawsuit

Lawsuit seeking housing for homeless LA veterans moves forward

A lawsuit brought by a group of veterans against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, challenging land lease agreements and seeking permanent housing for thousands of homeless veterans on and around the VA’s West Los Angeles campus may be heading to trial, according to court documents obtained Thursday.

The 14 plaintiffs allege the VA has failed in its duty to provide housing and health care to veterans with disabilities, leaving nearly 3,500 veterans sleeping nightly on the streets of Los Angeles, according to the November 2022 complaint.

In a tentative ruling this week, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter denied motions to dismiss portions of the class-action lawsuit dealing with leases for a private school’s athletic facilities and a parking lot for the general public at the West LA campus.

Such land uses “are not designed to ‘principally benefit veterans and their families,’ even if veterans marginally benefit from these agreements,” Carter wrote.

VA spokesman Gary J. Kunich said that while VA doesn’t typically comment on pending or ongoing litigation, “we are proud of the work we are doing in Los Angeles and across the nation to end Veteran homelessness.”

In Los Angeles, the department completed 233 permanent supportive housing units on the West LA campus with 199 units occupied as of Sept. 15, Kunich said, with 134 tiny shelters, plus six units held for overnight drop-ins.

He also described an array of services to address veteran housing instability and homelessness, including outreach and referral services, residential services and help with permanent housing.

The plaintiffs say they suffer serious disabilities such as PTSD and traumatic brain injury. They seek to secure coordinated housing and health care services, including permanent supportive housing, for all unhoused veterans with disabilities in the region.

Without such housing, “veterans with serious disabilities cannot access desperately needed mental and physical treatment services to which they are entitled,” according to the complaint lodged in LA federal court.

“The worst part of war should not be coming home,” said Shad Meshad, founder and president of the National Veterans Foundation, among plaintiffs in the case.

“Each week our outreach team goes out to homeless encampments, working the meanest streets of Los Angeles, where we find large communities with vets embedded in them,” he said. “We see our brothers and sisters living in squalid conditions worse than I saw in Vietnam. You cannot ever come home if you are homeless.

“How is it that our city is the homeless veterans capital of the United States?” Meshad continued. “I hope my government will choose to join, not resist, the warriors in arms in their last and most important fight of all — the struggle to survive and thrive.”

The suit — filed by Los Angeles-based law firms Public Counsel, the Inner City Law Center and others — also seeks a court order prohibiting the VA from using its 388-acre West Los Angeles property for any venture that does not primarily benefit veterans.

A 2011 lawsuit also addressed the land-use issue. Although the VA committed to construct 1,200 units of new permanent supportive housing — 770 of which should have been completed by now — virtually no such housing has been built as of 2022, according to Public Counsel.

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