WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-33rd District) on Thursday sent letters to over 30 companies that have entered into land use agreements with the West Los Angeles VA campus over the past 13 years so that he can get a better understanding of how much money the campus takes in from private businesses.
The letters were sent after Waxman made a similar request to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki in September.
“The department has not provided an adequate response to this request,” read a news release from Waxman’s office.
The West L.A. VA, the largest medical center in the VA system with 1.4 million veterans served annually, is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a group of homeless veterans for failing to use its 387 acres as they were initially intended — as a permanent home for veterans.
According to the ACLU suit, the VA has, over time, strayed from that original purpose by leasing large portions of the property to private social services and a number of private companies, including a rental car business.
The lawsuit also contends the VA’s benefits program discriminates against veterans with severe mental disabilities. Without stable living conditions, these veterans cannot access the necessary medical and mental health services they need.
“The VA has an obligation to dedicate any revenues generated from the use of its property to its core mission — the care of our nation’s veterans,” Waxman said. “I am committed to ensuring that they abide by that obligation. A full accounting of the revenue generated from these land use agreements is an important step for the VA to rebuild trust with veterans and the West L.A. community at large. Moving forward I will continue to push the VA on other key priorities, including speeding up construction of supportive housing, improving case management and expanding outreach to homeless veterans.”
In December, the VA announced it selected a contractor to make seismic upgrades and other improvements to a building on the West L.A. campus that is intended to house veterans in need of treatment. Waxman praised the move, but lamented on how long it took to finalize the contract.
Construction is expected to be completed by spring 2014. The goal is to house approximately 65 homeless veterans for whom previous recovery attempts have failed.
In 2009, Shinseki, along with President Obama, put into place a plan to end homelessness among veterans by 2015. VA officials said in December that the plan has directly contributed to a 12 percent decrease in the number of homeless veterans in 2011.
Officials with the VA could not be reached for comment on this story.