Attorney Rees Lloyd
May 14, 2013
"Duty, Honor, Country—BETRAYAL" is the title of a new documentary film, now available on DVD, dramatically exposing how the VA is failing homeless vets by giving away land donated solely to assist veterans to wealthy, politically-connected non-veteran interests through the VA's so-called "Enhanced Use Leases."
The focus of the documentary by Bill Dumas Productions is the National Veterans Home in West Los Angeles. But the problem of the VA's give-away of veterans' land to benefit non-veteran, politically-connected interests is nationwide.
Bill Dumas, an award-winning documentary film maker, said he focused on the National Veterans Home in L.A. because "it provides stark evidence that land that was donated to the government for the sole purpose of assisting veterans is instead being turned over to wealthy interests in give-away Enhanced Use Agreements while the VA locks out homeless veterans from that land."
L.A. is estimated to have some 20,000 homeless vets, the highest of any city. The National Veterans Home was established on a large tract of land, some 400 acres, which was donated to the government by two families in 1888 for the sole purpose of aiding veterans in need of medical and other services.
Instead, many acres of the National Veterans are now controlled through V.A. Enhanced Use Lease granted to the wealthy residents and interests of Brentwood and other communities of the ultra-rich who are politically-connected to the so-called "Westside Democratic Machine" which prominently includes U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Ca.) among other members of Congress, and L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslovsky, all aided and abetted by Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. These leases are for as long as 75 years, at prices far below market value, often nominal payments of "$1 a year," sometimes nothing at all.
Worst of all: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs has the authority to give that land to the lessees entirely in the Secretary's sole discretion, without Congressional action, if the Secretary decides the land is no longer needed for veterans.
An exemplar of this exploitation of veterans lands by the rich and infamous is ultra-rich Brentwood, which adjoins National Veterans Home. Among other things, some of its very wealthy residents who really don't want homeless veterans out, about, and visible, in their neighborhood, created the misleadingly named "Veterans (sic) Park Conservancy," which is not in fact a veterans organization, to grab veterans' land for their purposes.
The non-veteran, wealthy, politically-connected (to Henry Waxman, et al.) Brentwoodites have obtained a lease of "16-acres" for "zero" payments, for "ten years," with option to renew at the same price (nothing) for an additional ten years, in order to establish a "park." The VPC boasted in its press release sealing the deal with VA brokered by Waxman and political cohorts, will "benefit veterans and the general public."
That is, the VPC will establish a public or semi-public "park" on land donated for the "sole" purpose of assisting veterans in need of medical, mental, and emotional care and assistance,
Meanwhile, homeless veterans are locked outside the gates of their "National Veterans Home." Many large dormitory-like buildings on the land which could be used for the homeless, are empty, unused, deteriorating because the VA refuses to maintain them, or build adequate new housing, or use the available land for temporary housing as new housing is built, as shown in the Bill Dumas documentary film.
The VA, with great fanfare praising itself, announced it would start a $20-million building project, which is but a public relations gesture as it is woefully less than needed.
Similarly, The ACLU, also with great fanfare praising itself, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the ACLU in its ten-year long litigation to destroy the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial Cross (Buono vs. Salazar), filed a face-saving lawsuit against the VA at the National Veterans Home in L.A. However, of the six major claims of its lawsuit, the court has dismissed five, and all that remains is one claim that the VA's policies violate the Administrative Procedure Act, the documentary notes.
Thus, it appears that if veterans' lands are going to be saved from the VA , and politicians like Henry Waxman, it is going to take veterans actively fighting to save those lands.
The The American Legion Department of California, following exposure of the Brentwood "park" give-away lease at the National Veterans Home, adopted at its 2009 Convention a resolution written by me and sponsored by Legion DeDistrict 21 which established a policy opposing the Brentwood VPC "park," and all VA land-use policies in which the land is not used "solely" to serve the needs of veterans, including housing.
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At the 2010 Convention, the Department adopted a resolution written by Legionnaire Larry Van Kuran and sponsored by District 20 establishing a policy opposing the VA's land and facilities give-away policies at the VA's former medical center in Sepulveda, and opposing the VA's Extended Use Lease policies nationally. That resolution was adopted at the National Convention as well.
"I made 'Duty, Honor, Country—BETRAYAL' because I beliieve that the VA's policies are a betrayal of veterans and a national disgrace," said l Dumas. "I hope it will help the cause of defending veterans who defended the nation but who now find themselves homeless, and locked out of land and facilities intended for their exclusive use and benefit."
[For more information on the DVD: www.HomelessVetMovie.com]