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Remembering Valley Vets

Paul Goins served two tours of duty as a Marine in Vietnam and now he oversees 25 Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in the San Fernando Valley.

Without hesitation, Goins, 50, of Palmdale, will tell you what is foremost on the collective minds of military veterans of all ages.

“Eroding benefits,” he says.

So while Veterans Day ceremonies deservedly honor all branches of the U.S. military, persistent concerns face veterans nationwide.

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In Los Angeles County, there are nearly 800,000 veterans, said Joseph N. Smith, director of the county’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Of those, an estimated 24,000 are homeless, Smith said.

“Many of the people are scrambling to get their heads above water,” he said. “We’re busy trying to help vets.”

Jesse Brown, the Clinton Administration’s secretary of Veterans Affairs, has been outspoken about how federal budget concerns could hurt veterans.

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In a recent interview, Brown said Republican proposals for balancing the federal budget by trimming spending could leave tens of thousands of veterans nationwide without access to health care by 2002.

In California, an estimated 19,400 veterans -- the most of any state -- could lose their Medicaid, the health care program for the poor and disabled, during the next seven years, he said.

“I feel saddened,” Brown said. “Maybe we have forgotten the moral obligation the nation has to our veterans.”

But Brown’s critics say he is engaging in scare tactics. Rep. Tim Hutchinson, R-Arkansas, a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, has been among those who disputed Brown’s statements, saying recently that Republicans in Congress care for veterans as much as anyone.

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“We are absolutely committed to caring for our veterans,” he said.

Just what will happen to veterans benefits as the push continues for a balanced federal budget by 2002 remains under consideration by Congress.

Locally, the Sepulveda Veterans Administration Medical Center last week celebrated its 40th anniversary.

The facility, which was severely damaged by the Northridge earthquake nearly two years ago, has since undergone sweeping changes -- some of which left many veterans upset.

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Rather than repair the facility’s 431-bed hospital, federal officials chose to replace it with an ambulatory care center offering outpatient services.

Officials say the center soon will become the largest state-of-the-art ambulatory care center in the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.

A new 242,000-square-foot ambulatory care building is expected to be completed in October, 1996. In addition, the center maintains a 120-bed nursing home care unit, operates a geriatric research education evaluation center and performs education and research activities.

Veterans in Los Angeles County

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(According to 1990 Census)

Total: 780,653

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Ethnic and gender breakdown:

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Male veterans: 749,187 total

White: 502,655

Black: 90,971

Hispanic: 88,957

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Asian or Pacific Islander: 29,374

American Indian, Eskimo or Aleut: 4,357

Other: 32,873

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Female veterans: 31,466 total

White: 21,241

Black: 4,455

Hispanic: 3,120

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Asian or Pacific Islander: 996

American Indian, Eskimo or Aleut: 302

Other: 1,352

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Veterans in Valley Congressional Districts

Number of veterans in SFV Congressional Districts (1990 Census):

District 24; Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Woodland Hills): 55,230

District 25: Howard P. McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) : 58,940

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District 26: Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City) : 32,270

District 27: Carlos J. Moorhead (R-Glendale) : 45,180

District 29: Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) : 45,270

Total: 236,890

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Valley Veterans by War

Valley veterans who served only in these wars; there are some veterans who served in more than one war; (based on 1990 U.S. Census:)

WWII: 51,899

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Korean: 24,899

Vietnam: 46,124

WWI: 330

Other service: 1,118

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Sources: Los Angeles County Department of Military and Veterans Affairs; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; U.S. Census Bureau.

Researched by EFRAIN HERNANDEZ JR. / Los Angeles Times


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