While President Trump and Veterans Administration Secretary David Shulkin are working to better the Veterans Administration and associated veterans’ healthcare initiatives, the Los Angeles Veterans Affairs (VA) facility that illegally leased out chunks of its huge parcel to private businesses paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to reimburse some for terminating the unlawful agreements, records obtained by Judicial Watch show.
It marks the latest in a series of scandals to rock the sprawling southern California VA campus forced by a lawsuit to use the land for its intended purpose of helping vets, especially those who are homeless.
The 338-acre parcel in West Los Angeles, which includes the National Veterans Park and Veterans Home, was deeded to the federal government in 1888 for the specific purpose of caring for disabled veterans.
Thousands of disabled veterans once lived on the property, which also had churches, theaters, a library and post office. In the 1960s and 1970s the VA quietly closed the facilities, according to the American Legion, and ousted mentally disabled veterans. In recent years, the property has been used for many causes unrelated to veterans.
Among them is a stadium for the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) baseball team, an athletic complex for a nearby private high school, laundry facilities for a local hotel, storage and maintenance of production sets for 20th Century Fox Television, the Brentwood Theatre, soccer practice and match fields for a private girls’ soccer club, a dog park, and a farmer’s market.
A lawsuit accusing the VA of misusing the L.A. grounds and illegally leasing the land forced the agency to make changes. As part of a settlement, the VA announced that it would dedicate the West L.A. campus to “serving veterans in need” by, among other things, designing a plan to help end homelessness among the county’s veterans. The legal settlement also compelled the VA to terminate leases with private businesses that were never supposed to be there in the first place. In fact, in 2013 a federal judge struck down the leases, ruling that the VA misused the West L.A. property by engaging in them. The same judge, S. James Otero, halted construction of an amphitheater on the property.
It was partially constructed by the Veterans Parks Conservancy (VPC) on the north side of the grounds, a site that was ordered to be restored to a neat, safe and clean condition by May 6, 2016.
Records obtained by Judicial Watch show that the VPC got a big check from the VA to tear down the illegal amphitheater. “Within thirty (30) days from the date of this Revocable License, VA will remit to VPC not less than $287,318 to reimburse VPC for its expenses in planning and partially constructing the existing amphitheater,” state the records, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as part of an ongoing Judicial Watch investigation into corruption at the L.A. VA.
“In addition, within thirty (30) days following the parties’ execution of the Acknowledgement Letter, VA will remit not less than $106,096 to VPC to reimburse VPC for its expenses to remove the partially-constructed amphitheater off the North Side of the Campus.”
The VA gave Twentieth Century Fox Television $435,000 to terminate its illicit agreement with the entertainment company, the records obtained by Judicial Watch show. The deal provided 72,160 square feet of land at the West L.A. VA to be used as parking, storage and maintenance of production sets. It was classified as a “Sharing Agreement” that caught the attention of county officials, who halted construction of a storage facility because Fox Entertainment failed to obtain necessary approvals and permits.
The same batch of VA records reveal that for years UCLA failed to pay for utilities at its baseball field, officially known as Jackie Robinson Stadium, on the VA property. This amounted to $108,278, according to invoices included in the documents.
Just last month an official at the L.A. VA pleaded guilty to two felonies for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a vendor that defrauded the VA out of millions. The corrupt VA official, Ralph Tillman, took over a quarter of a million dollars in bribes from a parking lot operator at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.
The crooked parking lot operator, Richard Scott, owns a company called Westside Services that has long benefitted from a lucrative contract with the VA. Scott paid Tillman to conceal a scheme in which he failed to pay the VA more than $11 million generated by his operation of the parking facilities, according to the feds. Tillman admitted to federal authorities that he knew the parking lot operator was defrauding the VA out of millions of dollars and that he extended Westside Services’ contract in 2011 to continue the fraud and bribery scheme. Scott personally delivered monthly cash payments to Tillman in sealed FedEx envelopes. The disgraced VA official faces up to eight years in prison.
While all this corruption went on at this VA facility, an Army vet got criminally prosecuted for displaying the American Flag on the outside fence on Memorial Day. His name is Robert Rosebrock and he faced up to six months in prison for the ghastly offense of reportedly affixing Old Glory at a site honoring those who served their country.
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