Federal Government Given Six Months To Appeal VA Leasing Decision
By Brenton Garen | October 04, 2013
The long-term future of the 11 businesses and organizations that use land on Department of Veterans Affairs’ West LA campus still remains unclear following a federal judge’s ruling Aug. 29 that their leases were illegally issued.
U.S. District Judge S. James Otero found that federal statutes governing the use of the property unambiguously prohibits the VA from entering into land-use agreements with private parties on the West LA campus unless the agreements are directly related to providing medical care or related services to veterans.
Among the illegal leases: Brentwood private school’s athletic complex, a laundry processing facility for nearby hotels, the UCLA baseball stadium, Fox studio production storage facilities, practice fields for a private soccer club, parking lots for surrounding businesses, and a farmer’s market.
Otero’s ruling comes more than two years after the ACLU Foundation of Southern California,the Inner City Law Center, Arnold & Porter LLP and Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, and law professors Laurence Tribe and Gary Blasi, filed suit against the VA on behalf of homeless and disabled veterans, who were often sleeping outside the gates of the campus.
However, Otero stopped short of immediately ordering the 11 leaseholders to vacate the property, giving the government six months to decide whether to appeal before he enforces the order.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice declined to say whether the government would challenge the ruling.
Veteran activist Robert Rosebrock, of the Old Veterans Guard, said he was thrilled with the Federal Court decision.
“In spite of an annual budget exceeding $750 million, the VA claims it leases this land to generate revenue to provide healthcare services for our disabled veterans,” Rosebrock said.
“This is beyond preposterous as we do not lease the front lawn of the White House to provide Secret Service protection for our President or lease land on military bases to provide revenue for our national defense.”
Rosebrock said the “charade is over.”
“Common sense and ethical responsibility dictate that the Los Angeles VA must change dramatically, and quickly,” he said. “In addition to removing all unlawful occupants from this property, it’s imperative that executive director Donna Beiter and her top-level staff be replaced, posthaste.”
Congressman Henry Waxman (33rd District) said Otero’s decision represents a triumph for veterans, but added this court decision was not the end of the matter.
“It does not provide a bed or treatment or employment for veterans,” Waxman said.
“Now is the time for us to redouble our efforts and work together to solve the problems that veterans face in our community. This month, the VA will open dozens of new beds for veterans so they can get the treatment they need to get back on their feet. I welcome this new plan and Secretary Shinseki’s recent pledge to do more for homeless veterans at the West LA VA.”
Waxman said it would take creative solutions to end the epidemic of veteran homelessness.
“I will continue to push for veterans in our community to receive everything owed to them and to ensure that the VA has the federal funding necessary to get the job done,” he said. “While we can never fully repay our veterans for their sacrifices, we have an obligation to fulfill every promise we have made to them.”
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2:14am on Thursday, October 10th, 2013
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