Fed Audit Exposes Corruption in Illegal VA Land Sharing Deals at LA Facility
In a huge victory for military vets fighting the illegal use of a Los Angeles Veterans Affairs (VA) facility, a federal audit exposes rampant fraud and corruption involving the illicit land sharing agreements made by crooked VA officials. Judicial Watch launched an investigation into the deals and has two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests pending. A third FOIA request for additional records was recently filed by Judicial Watch after gathering new details pertinent to the case. Conducted by the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG), the investigation vindicates vets embroiled in a long and nasty fight against the abuse and misappropriation of VA property.
For nearly a decade a group called the Old Veterans Guard has filed complaints against rampant corruption at the Los Angeles VA for misusing VA property. The 338-acre parcel in West L.A., 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. Instead, the property is also used for many unrelated causes. 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. The new VA OIG report lists many others, including a parrot sanctuary, two parking lots spanning 3.9 acres and oil drilling.
Members of the Old Veterans Guard say federal authorities retaliated against them for denouncing the fraudulent use of the facility by sending VA police to harass and intimidate them at weekly rallies. Since 2008 the group has assembled at the “Great Lawn Gate” that marks the entrance to the L.A. National Veterans Park to protest the VA’s failure to make full use of the property to benefit veterans, particularly those who are homeless. Among the group leaders is Robert Rosebrock, an elderly Army vet who got criminally charged for posting a pair of four-by-six-inch American Flags on the outside fence on Memorial Day in 2016. Judicial Watch represented Rosebrock in the federal case, which was tried in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Last year, the court ruled that Rosebrock was not guilty of violating federal law for displaying the flags above the VA fence. Rosebrock’s absurd case was filed during the Obama administration, but the Trump Department of Justice (DOJ) moved forward with it.
Earlier this year an official at the same L.A. VA facility where Rosebrock got prosecuted for posting American Flags got charged for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a vendor that defrauded the VA out of millions. While the feds went on a witch hunt against the 75-year-old vet for affixing Old Glory at a site honoring those who served their country, the VA director was committing the real crime. In January the corrupt VA official, Ralph Tillman, agreed to plead guilty to two felony offenses for taking over a quarter of a million dollars in bribes from a parking lot operator at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System in southern California.
As part of its investigation, the VA OIG reviewed 40 land use agreements and determined that 11 did not comply with the law. Additionally, the VA watchdog found that 14 entities unaffiliated with the VA were operating on the West L.A. campus with either an expired or no documented agreement. “The OIG determined these noncompliant arrangements resulted from insufficient veteran input on land use, unclear VA policies on what constituted appropriate use of “out leases” and revocable licenses, and incomplete capital asset inventory land use agreement records maintained by GLAHS (Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System),” the report states. The VA watchdog directs the agency to implement a plan that complies with federal laws and create a process to obtain input form the veteran community on land use. The Old Veterans Guard has been fighting for this for a decade.