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Living between the uprights

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.

Originally posted to Something the Dog Said on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 07:26 AM PDT.

Also republished by Military Community Members of Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips? Flames? (23+ / 0-)

    A lot more support for those who have mental illness because of fighting our wars?

    Getting Democrats together and keeping them that way is like herding cats that are high on meth, through L.A., during an earthquake, in the rain -6.25, -6.10

    by Something the Dog Said on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 07:25:48 AM PDT

    •  Very important point about vets being abandoned (0+ / 0-)

      in so many ways once the govt's used them all up. I know friends who use and need that hospital in Brentwood, and it is a critical facility for the thousands of vets of these wars and the previous ones.

      [Conservatives are] engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; ...the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -- JK Galbraith

      by Vtdblue on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 07:54:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Golf Courses Have Powerful Constituency (3+ / 0-)

    Lots of important business deal are done while playing golf. If the Golf Course loses acreage the local economy might suffer.

    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.


    Action is the antidote to despair---Joan Baez

    by frandor55 on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 07:44:13 AM PDT

  •  Thanks, Dog (5+ / 0-)

    This will be an interesting case to watch -- not just because of the impact on our homeless/mentally ill veterans, but also just basic property law.  The Rule Against Perpetuities comes to mind -- and it is something I barely grasp but has to do with wills or grants of real property -- where a restriction on the property lasts the life of one of the parties plus 21 years (I suck at this, so may not be completely accurate).  Hopefully, the VA will do the right thing and settle this out quickly.

    Thanks again to the ACLU.

    " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 07:57:31 AM PDT

  •  Saw a diary on this earlier, but (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Something the Dog Said

    it was not very clear who was being sued or in what venue.  Thanks so much for the information - republished to Military Community Members of Daily Kos.

    oh, and tipped & rec'd btw ;)

  •  VA to Expand Housing for Homeless Veterans and (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Actbriniel, greengemini

    Their Families

    Unused & Underused VA Buildings to Be Developed
    WASHINGTON – June 8, 2011 - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) continues to develop housing opportunities for homeless and at-risk Veterans by adding 34 VA locations across the country.  This strategy will increase the Department’s available beds by over 5,000.  VA currently has 15,000 transitional beds available to homeless Veterans.

     “This initiative will significantly support our efforts to eliminate Veteran homelessness and improve quality of life for Veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We have a moral obligation to ensure that Veterans and their families have access to affordable housing and medical services that will help them get back on their feet.”

    Culminating two years of work to end homelessness among Veterans, a recent strategic study, the Building Utilization Review and Repurposing (BURR) initiative, identified unused and underused buildings at existing VA property with the potential to develop new housing opportunities for homeless or at-risk Veterans and their families through public-private partnerships and VA’s enhanced-use lease (EUL) program. Under the EUL program, VA retains ownership of the land and can determine and control its reuse.

    Additional opportunities identified through BURR will include housing for returning Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans and their families, assisted living for elderly Veterans and continuum of living residential communities.

    The project will support VA’s goal of ending Veteran homelessness by providing safe, affordable, cost effective, and sustainable housing for Veterans on a priority basis. {continued}

    CCR:"If you're a torturer, be careful in your travel plans. It's a slow process for accountability, but we keep going."

    by jimstaro on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 08:50:57 AM PDT

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