Blog of Rights

MIA: Missing in America

By Sam Ritchie, ACLU at 10:09pm

“The federal government should not have to be sued into giving veterans with mental illnesses and brain injuries the care they need so they don’t end up living in the street. But it has come to that.”New York Times Editorial, June 8, 2011

Sgt. Freddy Cordova, an Iraq War veteran who served through four deployments in Mosul and Tikrit, now works with the National Veterans Foundation, finding and helping homeless vets on the streets of Southern California. As a result of his service, Freddy now suffers from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and severe depression, mental health conditions he sees in many, if not most, of the homeless vets he interacts with every day.

Los Angeles is the homeless veteran capital of America, with an estimated 8,000 former servicemembers living on its streets. Los Angeles is also the home to a 387 acre parcel of land, specifically deeded to the United States in 1888 as a home for disabled veterans, so you’d think there would be an easy solution. But this is not what the land is being used for. As CBS Evening News reported on Tuesday, the land is being rented out to private companies, used for schools’ athletic fields and even turned into a golf course (!):

CBS Video Page

The ACLU of Southern California has filed a lawsuit on behalf of hundreds of severely disabled homeless veterans in the Los Angeles area, asking the courts to enforce the promise made when this land was donated to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). “The VA could quite literally end veteran homelessness in Los Angeles if this land were used as it was intended,”said Mark Rosenbaum, Chief Counsel of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.

Let’s hope, for the sake of the many veterans missing in America, that the VA changes course and starts using the land in Los Angeles for the purpose it was intended: providing a home for disabled veterans, a purpose it served ably for more than eight decades.

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