(135) Part I – Gimme Back my Land: Veterans Fight to Regain Donated Land

Miss Molly profileGolly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

 

It took a lawsuit to reach an agreement with the VA to return land to homeless Veterans—land donated and deeded for their shelter. In 1888, a mining magnate and his wife deeded 400 acres in Los Angeles for the care of old soldiers. While the property served Veterans prior to the 1960s, it now “hosts wine tastings, a college baseball stadium, commercial laundry, a golf course and several other enterprises that have nothing to do with wounded warriors.” (McKay)

No veteran entered military service severely mentally disabled and homeless. We, as a people, owe our security and the preservation of our most cherished values to our military service members and our veterans, who serve our nation not for remuneration or glory, but out of fealty to honor, duty, and sacrifice.

Excerpt from Valentini vs VA Secretary class action lawsuit filed in the US District Court Central District of California on August 12, 2011

Given shocking reports of how land once dedicated to housing Veterans ended up shutting Veterans out, Molly feels this story needs to be told. This is the first of several blogs that will share the story.

Bringing the Story to National Attention

A class action lawsuit was filed in 2011 by the ACLU and pro-bono attorneys entered on behalf of Veterans with various war-related disabilities. Each Veteran mentioned in the lawsuit lived in the Los Angeles area and fell into homelessness without long-term service or care for their disabilities. The VA settled the lawsuit earlier this year after four years in court, promising to return all land uses back to the Veterans. This requires that the VA work with Veteran organizations to prepare a Master Plan that outlines uses of the property and provides long-term shelter to Veterans with special emphasis on female Veterans, severely disabled, and other homeless Veterans. The settlement calls for the VA to phase out uses not consistent with the Master Plan, which do not serve Veterans.

Today, the property does consist of a health care facility with more than 1,000 beds. According to the lawsuit, those beds serve Veterans on a short-term basis—not offering permanent or long-term housing for Veterans. The land is “wedged between some of the nation’s wealthiest communities,” according to McKay. The boundaries are Bel-Air to the north, UCLA and Westwood to the east, and Brentwood to the west.

Reports indicate that the single largest group of homeless Veterans in the US call Los Angeles their home with over 20,000 living on the streets. This represents 11 percent of the total homeless Veteran population in the US. Over 100 buildings exist on the property today with most of them vacant and unusable due to lack of maintenance. With such a large homeless population in the area, news of abuse of the land hit center stage with the settlement of the lawsuit.

How Did the Veterans Lose the Land?

In Friday’s blog, Molly will share the story of how the Veterans lost use of the land. In future blogs, she wants to share the plans to return the land to homeless Veterans. We hope you will join Miss Molly as she brings this story to you. Just as no dog should be without a doghouse, no Veteran should be without a home!

Post your Comments:

Do you know of other stories where resources dedicated to Veterans were given away? Please reply below.

Sources cited:

  • McKay, Hollie. “No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use,” in Fox News on September 22, 2015
  • Valentini v Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Amended Complaint and Injunctive, Declaratory, Mandamus, and Accounting Relief, Case No.: CV-11-04846 SJO (MRWx) filed on August 12, 2011; case filed with the United States District Court Central District of California, as retrieved on October 19, 2015, at http://www.publiccounsel.org/tools/assets/files/0577.pdf

About the blogger

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.