The Washington Post

Judge approves trial in homeless suit against VA

A federal judge in California has agreed to a trial in a class-action lawsuit alleging that Department of Veterans Affairs’ policies leave veterans suffering from mental disorders at risk of homelessness.

But Judge S. James Otero of the Central District of California dismissed portions of the suit, including claims alleging a breach of fiduciary duty on the part of the VA.

The judge also said the plaintiffs had failed to explain how disabled veterans have been denied access to VA housing programs, but agreed to allow attorneys to amend their claim with further information.

The lawsuit, filed in June by several several Los Angeles area homeless veterans and the group Vietnam Veterans of America, asks the court to order the VA to use empty buildings on its sprawling West Los Angeles Medical Center campus to provide permanent supportive housing for some veterans.

These include a class of veterans who suffer from conditions such as severe post-traumatic stress disorder or brain trauma that the plaintiffs argue require a stable home environment for successful treatment.

“The Government misses the mark in arguing that Plaintiffs do not have a right to permanent supportive housing,” Otero wrote.

David Sapp, an attorney for the homeless veterans, called the ruling “the first time a judge has ruled that the federal government has a legally enforceable obligation to ensure that veterans can access the benefits for which they [are] otherwise entitled.”

The VA, which has vowed to end veterans’ homelessness by 2015, declined comment.

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