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Opinion

Readers React: All nonveteran groups need to be moved off the West L.A. VA campus

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A Brentwood dog park operated by the city of Los Angeles sits on Department of Veterans Affairs land in West Los Angeles.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: For decades, how the Department of Veterans Affairs uses its property in West L.A. has been politically charged. Influential interests — including UCLA, the Brentwood School and local politicians — all have had designs on the magnificent piece of property. Each of these powerful parties covers its self-serving motives with the proverbial fig leaf of some proposed benefit for veterans.

Local management at VA Greater Los Angeles (GLA) has neither the tools nor the support from the federal VA to manage the property and all of these competing interests. Yet, the VA expects the facility to generate revenue from the property to support its budget for healthcare services. The result has been mismanagement and lawsuits.

Housing thousands of homeless veterans on the property would meet a vital need, but it is unrealistic, expensive and unfunded. The emphasis on the property is a constant distraction from the provision of healthcare that is GLA’s primary mission.

The VA and GLA need to get out of the land management business and should terminate or buy out all contracts with non-VA groups. The VA must also fund both healthcare and housing infrastructure to maintain GLA as the gem of the system.

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Michael E Mahler, MD, Los Angeles

The writer is a physician at the West L.A. VA. The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

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To the editor: For nearly 75 years, UCLA has partnered with the VA to provide current and former members of our armed forces with state-of-the-art medical, psychological, family, legal, educational and recreational services.

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In its first year, the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center served more than 7,000 veterans and their families, offering expert counseling, resilience programming and referrals as appropriate. In the first 10 months since our UCLA Veterans Legal Clinic opened, UCLA law students, aided by faculty, helped more than 230 veterans with more than 300 legal matters.

We are also making substantial progress with VA leaders in the development of a third center that will address homelessness, substance abuse and mental health issues. Our annual commitment exceeds $1.65 million, including $300,000 annual fair-market rent for Jackie Robinson Stadium.

We remain committed to this partnership and, together with our VA partners, UCLA is changing lives by equipping our veterans and active military personnel with the resources and support they need to meet the variety of challenges they may face.

Gene D. Block, Los Angeles

The writer is chancellor of UCLA.

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To the editor: There are more than just two tenants under fire at the West L.A. VA site. The dog park is operated by the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks.

Regarding the public use of the dog park by nonveterans, I want to be clear that my dog, Fido (who did not serve), did get prior permission from his friend Rex, a military K-9.

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Charlie Andrews, North Hills

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