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Homeless Veterans Activist Group Sends Resolution To President Obama

Michael Juliani |
November 20, 2012 | 5:40 p.m. PST

Assistant News Editor

A disabled homeless veteran in Los Angeles (Robert L. Rosebrock).
A disabled homeless veteran in Los Angeles (Robert L. Rosebrock).
For almost 250 straight Sundays, Robert Rosebrock and the Old Veterans Guard have protested at the Veterans Affairs grounds at the corner of Wilshire and San Vicente Blvd., asking that the VA give homeless veterans their due. 

Over the last five years, Rosebrock has led the Veterans Revolution, a group of mostly Vietnam War veterans who have pressured the VA and the United States government to recognize the plight of veterans in Los Angeles, the city with the highest population of homeless veterans.

Rosebrock, a 70-year-old Army veteran who did not see combat when he was drafted in 1965, witnessed how the VA services in West L.A. weren't helping the thousands of homeless veterans in the city.

"So many times it gets so frustrating you wanna quit but just can't, because I see so many of the homeless veterans, I talk to them, meet them," Rosebrock said over the phone.  "It's extremely sad to see that we can't take care of them in a very civil manner.  It's very inhumane, what's happening."

In 2009, Rosebrock was cited six times by federal police for attaching an upside-down American flag to the gate of the VA grounds.  The upside-down flag usually passes as a symbol of distress, but an associate director of the VA hospital ordered police to act because she considered it "a desecration of the flag" and worried that mental health patients would be upset by an "inappropriate display on VA property," according to the L.A. Times.

Rosebrock contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who filed and won a lawsuit on his behalf saying that the VA's actions violated his freedom of speech.  After investigating the VA more, the ACLU decided to file another lawsuit against the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs for misuse of Veterans property and mistreatment of disabled homeless Veterans.  If a settlement isn't reached, the case will go to trial in March. 

The Old Veterans Guard sent a letter to President Obama on November 14 asking him to declare a state of emergency for the homeless veterans in L.A.  The letter also asked that Obama stop the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorneys from "aggressively fighting" the ACLU lawsuit, since helping veterans "is not a legal challenge; it is a moral responsibility."

"It's still beyond us that the VA would be fighting us and the lawsuit the way they are," Rosebrock said.  "I think it's going to be very embarrassing for the government at some point in time.  That's why we kind of threw a bone to President Obama saying 'here, here's your chance.'  Otherwise it's going to get ugly and nasty, I'm afraid."

The VA grounds fall within Congressman Henry Waxman's district, and while Waxman was against the Vietnam War when it happened, Rosebrock said, the congressman has ignored veterans issues while in office.  Because the VA grounds are in a wealthy neighborhood, Waxman "answers to very powerful, wealthy constituents," Rosebrock said.

The Old Veterans Guard letter pinpointed specific ways the VA could better serve the dire needs of homeless veterans.  Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki recently pledged $20 million to convert a vacant, three-story building on the VA grounds into housing for "70 to 90" homeless veterans.

Rosebrock's letter showed that Building 209, as it's known, is a rat-infested, possibly asbestos-laden former psychiatric ward.  He quoted Dave Bayard, the VA's Regional Director of Public Relations, saying that Building 209 and other abandoned buildings on the grounds "are not places where someone could live, they're not safe seismically, they're not safe environmentally." 

The Old Veterans Guard Resolution letter asks that Building 209 be demolished and the $20 million be used to set up temporary housing and care for many more homeless vets than just the proposed 70 to 90.  The Resolution points to an 1888 deed that made it law that 600 acres of land be used "as a safe, sacred, and sovereign sanctuary for disabled and disadvantaged veterans."  

The Old Veterans Guard has about 15 core members, Rosebrock said, but receives support from large groups like the Vietnam Veterans of America.  "I'm considered a youngster at 70," Rosebrock said.  The Guard doesn't accept donations because they don't want to be swayed by donor expectations, Rosebrock said. 

Rosebrock is retired and spends his time working on the veterans causes, including the protests and writing articles for various websites.  He said he knows the activism the Old Veterans Guard does now serves to protect future veterans from the kind of negligence that Vietnam-era veterans faced. 

"When we're out there on the corner what's inspiring are the cars that drive by and honk, you get thumbs up, V for victory, fist pump, hand salute.  It's very inspiring if you have that support," he said.


Reach Assistant News Editor Michael Juliani here.


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Anonymous (not verified) on May 31, 2013 8:50 PM

Im a vietnam era vet and i was just made homeless and jobless in a quick 14 day period by some asshole, corrupt mortgage dealer who hates me cause i was a watchman and caretaker on a ranch which he is trying to take from the widow of a ww 2 vet,and he called jane burgess the lane county compliance officer and got the county to take my travel trailer,no home and no job.This is in cottage grove oregon and the man that cost me my home and job of 11 years and all my possions is brogan waybright ,patriot mortgage co. but veterans beware,this guy destroys veterans.Got comments, contact me. Thanks, Ken

Anonymous (not verified) on January 16, 2013 7:56 AM

not only has the fire been slowly dying out on the vets whom have served our country so proud in the previous wars. vets like myself have had issues with the VA in the current day. I seperated from the military in Aug 2011 and have yet to even recieve any compensation for injuries sustained in the Iraq war is 2004. I was taught as a soldier and as a man to fight on but who is fighting for us who is fighting the VA reps whom sit behind there marble desk and read that customer service blank shelled answer to the questions in which you ask them? nobody not the president whom I voted for I do understand that he has a busy job but stop shaking our soldiers hands and flying over to see them if your going to forget their name once you step on your jet to get into your warm bed filled with blood money and tears and sweat of the ones in which you call heros.

JimS (not verified) on November 21, 2012 4:04 PM

How About This for Supporting the Troops: What Always Should Have Been, Citizens Sacrifice!!
How does a Country HONOR It's Fallen, by Their Own 'Sacrifice' in Taking Care of the Brothers and Sisters They Served With!!

"There is this sense that this is genuine," says Raezer. "We haven't had this kind of visibility from the White House—ever." Joyce Raezer - December 30, 2011 Military Spouse

The only Government Branch doing, Federal and States, on a consistent basis, for the Military Families and Military Veterans is the present Executive Administration, unlike the previous admin and their tepub congresses, and that will now continue for four more years, it's Cabinet and those directly around it, the First and Second ladies and more!

The Country hasn't stood up and demanded it Sacrifice, especially through it's representatives, and sadly that will continue, for over a decade now added to the previous decades of underfunding it's Responsibility the Veterans Administration!

These present wars haven't been paid for, deficits started rising Before 9/11 as surplus left was quickly depleted and costs of are still added to same as are the long term costs as to the results of these wars once again!

No Revenues {especially from the wealthy nor their private reagan capitalism economic investments, free market supply side capitalism} = No Sacrifice = No Support = DeJa-vu all over again!!

USN All Shore '67-'71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country '70-'71

Anonymous (not verified) on November 21, 2012 6:05 AM

The VA wants to spend $222,000 per bed for 90 homeless veterans in a prison-like & all-controlling 12-Step religious AA/NA cult VA insane asylum; that money could buy 200 homeless veterans $100,000 1 bedroom condos. 90% of homeless veterans in VA programs END UP BACK ON THE STREETS!

Anonymous (not verified) on November 21, 2012 6:06 AM

The remaining 10$ get approved for disability benefits and go on to live wonderful lives.