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Homeless Veterans Activists Oppose Misuse Of Veterans Affairs Land

Michael Juliani |
November 29, 2012 | 4:26 p.m. PST

Assistant News Editor

A homeless veteran sits against the gate of VA property.  (Courtesy of Robert Rosebrock.)
A homeless veteran sits against the gate of VA property. (Courtesy of Robert Rosebrock.)

"Have you noticed that younger veterans are starting to become homeless/having a hard time because the VA isn't providing what they deserve?" I asked Robert Rosebrock in an email.

He answered: "Yes…I've come across younger Veterans living in their cars which is the next step to living on the street.  Once this happens it becomes extremely difficult to survive…no phone, no car, no job…helpless."

With the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq came a fresh look at how the United States government assists combat veterans when they return to civilian life.  With a modern perspective on the problem of post-traumatic stress disorder and controversies surrounding Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the plight of veterans snuck into mainstream media conversations. 

But, Rosebrock said, the government's treatment of veterans continues to be a "national disgrace." 

Rosebrock, a 70-year-old Vietnam War-era veteran, has led the Veterans Revolution for about five years.  He has protested every Sunday at the Veterans Affairs grounds in West L.A. with the Old Veterans Guard, a group of other veterans who refuse to let another generation of soldiers be neglected by the government.

After I published an article last week that gave an introductory look at the Old Veterans Guard's grievances, Rosebrock has continued to send me files showing ways the VA property in West L.A. has been misused. 

Rosebrock compiled a document that showed how Ralph Tillman, the director of asset management at the West L.A. VA, perpetuated the "national disgrace" that Rosebrock said is the misuse of VA land. 

"While Veterans are trying to heal from the devastation of War," Rosebrock's document said," Mr. Tillman makes a mockery of their service by annually leasing their hallowed ground to the Hollywood entertainment industry for a 'Celebrity Carnival Fundraiser,' sponsored by Disney with the admission being $1,000+ per person, and those proceeds do not go to the benefit of America's Veterans."

Also, Rosebrock said, many veterans are unhappy with UCLA.  Earlier this year the VA decided not to contract with UCLA to allow the university to refurbish Heroes Golf Course with $6 million.  The UCLA golf team would have used the course for practice.  Many veterans worried that the team would get priority use. 

The Old Veterans Guard helped pressure the VA not to go through with the deal.  When I tried to speak directly with UCLA's Veterans Resource Office about the university's dealings with the nearby VA I was referred to the campus media contacts, and a Facebook message I sent to one of the Veterans Resource coordinators hasn't been answered. 

"I'm hoping to get your perspective on this," I wrote to Brendan Hancock, the coordinator, "especially since as a coordinator at UCLA you offer resources to younger veterans (I assume) who might face similar frustrations with the VA."

Almost 20,000 homeless veterans live on the streets of Los Angeles.  Earlier this year, Congressman Henry Waxman, whose district includes VA property, agreed along with Senator Diane Feinstein and United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki to a plan that would restore an abandoned building on VA grounds to house 70 to 90 homeless veterans.

The Old Veterans Guard reacted by sending a letter to President Obama asking that he declare a state of emergency for Los Angeles' homeless veterans.  The letter also asked that instead of using money to restore the building, the VA should set up large-scale temporary housing so that more of the thousands of homeless veterans can get off the streets sooner. 

Voicemails and emails to Rep. Waxman's press contacts were not returned Thursday. 

(I get into more of the specifics of the Old Veterans Guard's letter to the president here.)

Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the VA for what it deemed to be the misuse of veterans land.  Though VA police had continually "harassed" the Old Veterans Guard during their protests outside VA property, Rosebrock said, it stopped once the ACLU filed its lawsuit. 

Rosebrock sent me a file of photos showing VA police videotaping the protests and observing them from a short distance.  Rosebrock said that since the police were outside the VA gates they were outside their jurisdiction.  

"I send these photos to show how the VA spent more time harassing us with our peaceful and legal demonstration on the outside than dealing with the crime on the inside...which is why we protest," he said.


Reach Assistant News Editor Michael Juliani here.  


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Anonymous (not verified) on March 24, 2013 11:19 PM

If this country cannot take care of its veterans then STOP using them for cannon fodder!!! Vietnam vets and millions of others screamed NO to sending troops to Irag 10 years ago. 10 YEARS AGO!!!! And now we are having all these DISCUSSIONS about the 10 yrs. ITS WAR!!! IT DOESN'T WORK!! ESPECIALLY when its ALL for greed...which was obvious at the time but ignored. Take care of these men and women. It is our HUMAN duty!! No Country, NO Nation, NO Religion...just HUMAN.....OH but wait...they killed THAT guy too when he dared to mention that topic!...how do these blind, heartless creatures sleep at night??? apparently not leaned up a gate on the sidewalk. No wonder they can sleep. DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU. PLEASE.

Anonymous (not verified) on February 5, 2013 4:23 AM

I know a disabled veteran who has 100% disability pay. I think he just wasted the money that the government give to him. He buys packs of cigars to smoke 8 pcs per day, when he got heart problem, lip cancer..the government paid it. I think, veteran like him must not enjoy benefits..why not spread the money to the real veterans who are needy? not to some veterans who will use the government money for their vices and for their medications from the illnesses they got from smoking and drinking?

Retired, disabled, and still paying (not verified) on December 13, 2012 9:10 AM

As a former VA employee, one forced into disability retirement, (no the EEO and EEOC do not care), I can attest to the fraud, waste, and abuse happening within the VA, ESPECIALLY towards disabled Veteran employees. For that fact there is a program, the Non-VA, or whatever they are calling it today, a program over $8 billion yearly, but does it serve the Veteran as designed? NO. This program was intended to contract services PER issue of the Veteran. Instead, the VA hospitals have been given a completely free hand how those funds are employed. So you have some hospitals that have contracted the lowest bidder to come on a regular basis to the hospital to provide those services, which is fine unless the Veteran has to travel 4 hours, or worse, as in Montana, take an old school bus to the VA hospital in Helena, sometimes taking all day to get there. As a disabled Vet myself, I have personally witnessed VA doctors mistreat Veterans. I sat in a doctors waiting room, watching an 80+ year old Vet in dire pain, fifth in line, and as each of our names before him was called, we turned down our turn to push him forward to get treated only to watch the clerk bounce him again. DISGRACEFUL, I served this country as a career military man, and spent most of my life working in the governmental sector. I am ashamed of this condition, and frankly, I understand why some of the Vets decided to stay in the country they were last deployed to. I know way too much now, maybe it's time to become a Canadian, at least THEY know how to care for their Vets. (And ours by the way!)

David E. Vann (not verified) on December 6, 2012 4:05 PM

The Picture of the homeless veteran in the wheelchair attached to this article says it all We ask these men and women to go to our countries defense in a foreign and hostile land where they are asked to kill and be killed for us and our way of life. They go and come back and are reduced to living as the man in the wheelchair does along with many many others. It is indeed a national disgrace. These men and women defend our country and we allow them to live this way ? What in the hell is wrong? Forget the potential profit in the land and return it to its original purpose, caring for the people that defend our country. Wake UP David E. Vann

Anonymous (not verified) on December 3, 2012 9:39 AM

The Homeless Veterans want REAL HOUSING, REAL TRAINING, and REAL JOBS...The VA will NOT allow those things!

Howard Hernandez, AGIF CA State Commander (not verified) on November 29, 2012 5:41 PM

As the Commander of the State of California, I have forwarded this information directly to the White House, the Pentagon and several congresswomen from our area. I have also disseminated the information to all AGIF Chapters located in the State of California to contact Federal and State Representatives. I will enlist the assistance of all Veterans organizations in the State of California. Please feel free to contact me at your leisure.