BGL partner Eve Hill, along with a team of civil rights attorneys and advocates, has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of 14 unhoused veterans and the National Veterans Federation, demanding that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provide permanent supportive housing on and around its West Los Angeles campus for thousands of homeless veterans who suffer from serious mental illness, traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder. Los Angeles is the homeless veterans’ capital of the United States, with about 3,500 unhoused veterans as of 2022, accounting for approximately 10 percent of the nationwide total.
The complaint, filed in a U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on November 15, seeks an order giving the agency six months to create over 3,500 permanent supportive housing units for veterans with disabilities on or near the West Los Angeles campus. It also seeks to require the VA to ensure that portions of the campus currently leased to other entities are used primarily for veterans.
The lawsuit builds on promises the VA made in settling a 2011 case brought by 10 veterans with severe disabilities. The VA agreed to provide housing and supportive services for veterans, setting a goal of 770 units in by 2022. Seven years later, of the 770, only 54 housing units have been completed. The infrastructure needed for housing is not complete, nor has any work begun for the town center and socialization and recreation facilities. In addition, the VA continues to enter into noncompliant leases with entities that do not serve veterans.
The suit alleges the VA is violating Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by forcing veterans with disabilities to enter institutions, such as psychiatric hospitals, the VA Domiciliary, homeless shelters, or a “tiny shed” village in order to get disability-related services, instead of serving them in integrated settings. As Eve explained during a press conference Wednesday, “The federal government has enforced the [integration mandate of this law] against states for over a decade, but has done nothing to ensure it complies in its own programs.”
Despite the 2011 lawsuit, two Acts of Congress, and two reports of the Office of Inspector General detailing the VA’s failings, the West Los Angeles VA’s Master Plan 2022 will leave thousands of veterans to live and die on the streets of Los Angeles for many years to come, disproportionately impacting veterans with disabilities who need the VA’s services the most – which Mark Rosenbaum, Director of Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Law Program and Eve’s co-counsel, described as a “betrayal of veterans by their government” during a recent press conference announcing the suit. He continued, “The term ‘homeless veteran’ should be an oxymoron.”
As Eve explained at the press conference, “Nothing prevents the VA from doing its duty towards our veterans with disabilities – they have the land, they have the funds – all they lack is the will. I, personally, believe Americans across the country also join us in calling for the VA to do its duty on behalf of those who have already done theirs. I’m proud to stand with these veterans and with all Americans who demand the VA fulfill its promises.”
LEARN MORE ABOUT EVE HILL
In February 2017, Eve Hill, one of the nation’s leading disability rights attorneys, joined Brown Goldstein & Levy, where she continues to pursue her devotion to civil rights. Her wide-ranging experience complements the firm’s dedication to high-impact disability rights cases and its advocacy on behalf of individuals with disabilities and their families. Eve is also leader of Inclusivity, BGL’s Strategic Consulting Group.
PLEASE FIND NEWS COVERAGE BELOW
“Veterans sue VA demanding land be used for homes and not rented out to a college and private school.” | CNN (November 16, 2022)
“Lawsuit seeks to speed housing on the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus.” | Los Angeles Times (November 16, 2022)
“Homeless veterans in Los Angeles sue the VA over promised housing.” | NPR (November 16, 2022)