Fed judge rules that SoCal ACLU lawsuit against Department of Veterans Affairs may proceed

Homeless Vets

Grant Slater/KPCC

A homeless veteran on the L.A. streets. VA's Westside location was designed specifically to help homeless and mentally disabled veterans.

A federal judge ruled on Friday to allow a lawsuit made by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to proceed.

The ACLU and other groups allege the V.A. has failed to use its sprawling West L.A. campus for its intended purpose: to help homeless veterans. They want the V.A. to build more supportive housing that can provide mental health and other programs.

The ruling, according to the ACLU, is the first federal edict to state directly that Veterans Affairs has an "enforceable legal obligation" to provide help to homeless vets with mental illness.

“This decision gives thousands of L.A.’s neediest vets the right to a fair and prompt trial to obtain the supportive housing they so desperately need,” attorney Ron Olson, who is helping with the case, said.

The V.A. requested the case be dismissed, but U.S. District Judge S. James Otero smacked that down, saying that congress has made it "crystal clear" that "the [V.A.'s] land was used primarily to benefit veterans."

While the V.A. acknowledges that L.A. has the largest concentration of homeless vets in the country (officials estimate at least 8,000), they insist that they are working to improve homeless services.

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