One of the problems with having a Imperial War Machine brining democracy to the world is that you wind up with a lot of veterans. They all deserve and require some kind of care, especially the ones who come home with the hidden war wounds of mental illness. No matter how we feel about wars of choice, there is a very real social contract with the men and women who take the orders to go and fight for whatever their country says they should fight for.
This brings us to the class action law suit that was filed in the Central District Court of California yesterday. The suit on behalf of homeless mentally ill veterans is aimed at force the Department of Veterans Affairs to use a piece of land that was deeded to it in 1888 for the care of these homeless vets.
The area is 387 acres in Brentwood. Not exactly low rent property. Prior to the 1960’s it was used as it was intended as a home for wounded veterans. As the city grew and became prosperous the was allowed to deteriorate , and about 1/3 of it was leased to commercial interests like a golf course and a car rental agency.
From the New York Times article:
By any measure, the lawsuit — the first of its kind, lawyers said — is a significant escalation in a battle that has simmered here for years, as homeless advocates contended that the Department of Veterans Affairs was bowing to residents of the property’s prosperous Brentwood neighborhood and commercial interests by refusing to rehabilitate abandoned buildings and use them to help veterans.
This is an important suit because while the Obama administration has done some good work in reducing the number of homeless vets from an estimated 131,000 to 76,000 that is still far too high and the number is likely to go up not down as we wind down our wars and more service members retire. The VA says it still has a goal of eradicating homelessness in veterans by 2015. Of course they don’t give a whole lot of details on progress.
This is a pretty good example of how money and power stick it to the little guy. The folks who hold sway in Brentwood really would rather not have a bunch of mentally ill veterans in their midst, and they are very aware of all that open space in a place where property values are sky high. It is unfortunate that the veterans must sue the VA to get it to do its job with a resource that was specifically given to it for veterans.
The theory that the vets are suing under is an interesting one. They are suing on behalf of the mentally ill vets based on a law that requires that the Federal Government can’t discriminate against the mentally ill. This is both good and bad for veterans as a whole.
The good news is that the law suit is putting the VA on notice that it is not doing enough for our veterans and that they can not just use the Brentwood land as they please, but have to use it for the benefit of veterans, in terms of housing and care, not just as a revenue source. The bad news is that the case is just limited to mentally ill veterans and not all veterans.
Still with the high number of PTSD cases that are being reported (and the number that is going unreported) having a court decision saying the VA must do more for mentally ill vets is a good thing, assuming that we get a positive decision from the courts.
I hate war. I think it is something to be assiduously avoided. However as long as we have armies we must make the highest commitment to take care of those who do the fighting for us. If the costs are high, good; it should be part of the calculation on the necessity of any war, the costs of taking care of those who fight it, not just the immediate costs of munitions and planes and tanks.
If we are to send men and women into danger, where they can die or be damaged for life, then we must keep the commitment to take care of their injuries gained in the service of their country. To say it is too expensive just makes a mockery of that service.
The floor is yours.