VA releases plan to expand homeless services at West LA campus

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AP Photo/Reed Saxon

Veteran J.J. Asevedo raises a clenched fist at a news conference to announce a lawsuit against the federal government, alleging the misuse a 390-acre plot of land in West Los Angeles that was donated some 130 years ago to house veterans who need care after traumatic military experiences, at the Los Angeles Veterans Administration center in Los Angeles Wednesday, June 8, 2011.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Tuesday released a Master Plan that increases homeless services at its sprawling West Los Angeles campus. Earlier this month, civil rights and veterans groups sued the V.A., alleging the facility failed to provide adequate help to chronically homeless vets, many of whom suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.

"We welcome the fact that the V.A. has responded to our lawsuit," American Civil Liberties Union attorney Mark Rosenbaum said.

But V.A. officials said the plan has been in the works for months. It calls for renovating three buildings to provide “long-term therapeutic” programs for chronically homeless veterans in the L.A. area. Many consider Los Angeles the homeless veterans capital of the country: more than 8,000 vets sleep on streets and alleys around the region every night.

"This Master Plan builds on V.A.’s progress to end Veteran homelessness and ensures that land use at West Los Angeles will continue to put the needs of Veterans first – now and into the future," Greater L.A. V.A. Director Donna M. Beiter said.

Rosenbaum said while he was encouraged by the V.A.’s plan, it’s just a plan.

“There is not a commitment here. Rather there is a statement of possible guidelines to construct the permanent housing that thousands of vets in this community who are homeless require. There is not a commitment to fund any housing or services," Rosenbaum said.

The A.C.L.U.'s lawsuit seeks to require the V.A. to provide permanent supportive housing to chronically homeless veterans - "not an occasional cot," Rosenbaum said. That housing, he added, would include ready access to medical, psychiatric, education and job training programs.

"To date, the V.A. has provided zero beds, zero housing of that nature in Los Angeles or throughout the country."

The V.A.'s Beiter said the agency is committed to ending veteran homelessness in L..A. and throughout the country by 2015, and that the new plan “builds on the V.A.’s progress” toward that goal.

The V.A. statement said the Master Plan for the West L.A. campus includes other projects.

"Other projects under consideration as funds become available include: constructing a new inpatient tower (clinical expansion), centralizing research activities... expanding the Los Angeles National Cemetery onto the West L.A. campus."

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