Waxman's critics suggest he's part of the problem. John Keaveney, a Vietnam vet and retired pioneer in providing services to homeless veterans on the VA campus, said Waxman has had "a really hands-off approach to the VA," and he charged that neighborhood residential groups opposed to more services on the land have held sway over Waxman and other politicians.
Santa Monica Councilman Bobby Shriver had this to say:
"It's way past time for Mr. Waxman to make housing mentally disabled vets a real priority. He can build the housing immediately if he decides to do so."
Waxman, who disagrees that it's that simple, touted a program in which the VA has provided vouchers to place 60 mentally disabled vets into supportive housing.
But that's the problem — 60 vets? There's no acceptable reason for it to take eons to serve the tiniest fraction of those who, after risking their lives in service to the country, come home mentally, physically or emotionally broken.
Flora Gil Krisiloff, a staffer for L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, speaks highly of Waxman and his efforts on vets but said it's hard for the congressman or anyone else to crack the impenetrable VA culture. Krisiloff said months-long efforts to increase the number of severely disabled vets in the voucher program to 120 have been thwarted by the VA, whose actions she called "unconscionable."
Waxman noted that he has acted to limit commercial development of the VA property and derail a GOP effort to sell the land, and he said his office has interceded in the cases of 200 veterans who came looking for help with housing and other needs after being frustrated by the VA, in some cases for years.
But he acknowledged that he has not "devoted" himself to veteran issues and doesn't have a particular vision for how to best use the VA property — whether to rehab old structures or build anew, whether to create an encampment or focus on off-site housing. He noted that even veteran groups disagree on some of these issues, and even if there were a consensus, money would be scarce.
"I just want some leadership," he said, "and all I can do is push the people who have the ability to make some of these decisions."
Yes, some leadership would be nice, and given that this is the largest VA operation in the country, Waxman might do well to take on a bigger role.
Until someone does, Rosebrock intends to keep raising a ruckus out there.
"Many pay the ultimate price, and way too many are permanently disabled and end up homeless and destitute," Rosebrock said.
As he sees it, they served us, now we must serve them.