The federal government has agreed to settle a lawsuit in which the ACLU accused the Department of Veterans Affairs of misusing its sprawling West Los Angeles health campus while veterans with brain injuries and mental impairment slept in the streets, it was reported today.
Under the settlement, the VA will develop a master land-use plan for the campus that identifies sites for housing homeless veterans, the Los Angeles Times reported, quoting people familiar with the agreement .
Veterans Affairs officials did not immediately comment, but VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald has scheduled an announcement at the West Los Angeles Medical Center this afternoon.
“I believe the settlement is a game changer,” Rep. Ted Lieu, D- Torrance, who succeeded Henry Waxman this month representing the Westside district that includes the property, said in remarks reported by The Times.
In its 2011 suit, the ACLU of Southern California argued that the VA should develop housing for veterans on the 387-acre campus. The suit accused the agency of illegally leasing land to UCLA for its baseball stadium, a television studio for set storage, a hotel laundry and a parking service, according to The Times. It also made a land deal with the private Brentwood School for tennis and basketball courts.
A federal judge in 2013 struck down the leases. More recently, U.S. District Judge S. James Otero halted construction of an amphitheater on the property.
The settlement comes as officials conduct Los Angeles County’s biennial homeless count. Los Angeles County has more than 4,200 homeless veterans, the most in the nation. Mayor Eric Garcetti has promised to house every homeless veteran in the city by the end of the year, part of a national effort led by the Obama administration to get those who served off the streets.
The campus, wedged between Westwood and Brentwood, is the largest undeveloped property on the Westside, and part of the VA’s largest health center. The grounds were deeded to the government more than a century ago as a home for old soldiers.
For 80 years, the VA campus provided shelter and services for thousands of disabled veterans. In the 1960s, it stopped accepting new residents, and structures were either converted to other uses or allowed to deteriorate, according to The Times.