Press

A note from Richard Valdez, Legislative Director of the DAV Department of California:

Marcie,

I read the write-up re: the Stipends your organization provided (car etc.) and the meals.  Outstanding, you and your organization are doing great work in support of our veterans in need by providing much needed support.  I understand the concerns re: the homeless veteran housing situation, but I also know once the VA completes the EIS and lays it all out there for everyone to see the work will begin in earnest and it will be done right and legally. So right now, even though it feels like you're applying a band aide to a gaping wound, I see it differently, it's much needed triage, doing what it takes to keep them going until help arrives. 

We know what the issues are, identifying viable solutions is what's required right now and your organization is doing just that.  Now, it's just a matter of time for the Master Plan process (brick/mortar) to catch up and take affect. I have faith that it will. There's a saying in the military we all grew accustomed to and that is, "hurry up and wait."

Regards,
Richard Valdez, PSC
Legislative Director
DAV Depart. of California
909.838.2634

Read the article, and others, below. Click the Westside Today logo after each article to see it at their website.

Craig Joyce from Path, Oliver Viletta – Navy Veteran (2001-2009), Marcie Polier Swartz
of Village for Vets and Jennifer Turchin of the Brentwood Village Chamber of Commerce.

It’s a New Day for the VAGLA -

Income Stipend? Festivus?

What are all these new words?

By

Marcie Polier Swartz
January 15, 2018

Dear Community,

I often get this question: Why can’t you train the homeless Vets to work? 

I often give this answer: Have you ever noticed a close family member or friend who just can’t work and is frankly better off for it?  Have you ever noticed that sometimes certain people when forced to work have so much work-related anxiety that they make others around them uncomfortable as their own levels of anxiety rise off the charts?  Some homeless Veterans get housed and are not be able to find meaningful work.  So what. It’s a process.

Village for Vets has created Income Stipends for Veterans who are living independently but can’t quite make ends meet.  On December 9, at the Brentwood Festivus (holiday event) we awarded our first $10,000 stipend to PATH on behalf of a Veteran family.  They will buy the family a used car, car insurance and two car seats for their adorable kids.  It was deeply moving and reflective of the Holiday Spirit. PATH stands for People Assisting the Homeless and can be found at  http://www.epath.org/site/main.html

So many of you have been asking why ‘they’ can’t create emergency housing for homeless Vets on that large VA campus?  These are disgruntled words mixed with the frustration of wanting the problems to disappear and government funding to magically wipe it all away.     Where is all the promised development?  Why can’t the government pay for development now?

The government can’t wipe these problems away.  They need a partnership with the community at large to achieve lasting solutions.  Become part of the solution by joining Village for Vets (www.villageforvets.org) today.  We are the support group for the VAGLAHS and together we are helping homeless Vets.

Our Daily Meals Program on the VA campus, a partnership with Meals on Wheels and the Westside Food Bank, is getting sandwiches, fruit and Think Thin high protein bars into the hands of hungry homeless Vets every day.  We going from 5 to 7 days this year as Brentwood School has stepped into the role of weekend provider.  We hope to add hot meals to our program this year.  The better our program gets, the more homeless Vets will come to the VA to use it.

Join us.
Sincerely,
Marcie Polier Swartz
Founder, President
Village for Vets


It’s a New Day and the VA -

Veteran's Oversight

By

Marcie Polier Swartz
November 22, 2017

Since the VA lawsuits of 2011 and the Settlement Agreement of 2015 new leadership has taken over the VA. Veteran’s Oversight Groups monitor the activities as mandated by the Settlement. Richard Valdez*, past Commander of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and currently Legislative Director for California, has been a constant presence while almost every article written about the VA since then asks …“Can the community really work with the VA and Veterans…?” (You can read the Settlement Agreement right here: https://www.aclusocal.org/sites/default/files/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/012815-West-Los-Angeles-California-Principles-for-Partnership-Framework-for-Settlement-Executed.ocr_.pdf)

As a community representative along with Jennifer Turchin, President of the Brentwood Village Chamber of Commerce, we invited Richard to dinner in early 2016. We had seen him at every meeting. We were hoping to get to know him and to develop a closer working relationship. Let me tell you what happened at the dinner. We ate, and he had a cup of coffee. His serious tone conveyed to us that friendship would not be earned over a dinner. He has been watching over our efforts to support the VA and now I think of him as a kind of guardian angel. Let’s talk to Richard today…

After the settlement agreement, you and your organization moved into a support and advisory role at the VA. What effect has that had?

“Well, Veterans were not being given the opportunity to express their thoughts on the agreements being made. I carried that message to Washington – to then VA Secretary Bob McDonald. Right on the spot he referred me to Vince Kane, his special assistant, who arranged a seat for us at the table.”

What positive changes has your participation resulted in?

“Our focus was solutions oriented vs. argument. The VSO Coalition (Veteran Service Organizations) studied the issues and had to consider the problems veterans face from the perspective of where they were in their life cycle and not from a static one point in life because veterans needs varied. 

How many Vets does DAV serve every year?

“In West L.A. we serves several thousand Vets a year. We provide claims services and transportation. Our volunteer drivers cover over 100k miles a year driving Vets from home to the VA for their medical appointments and return them to their points of origin.”

There were many Veterans affected by the fires up north. We administered vouchers to them for emergency clothing food and shelter.

Does the DAV play a role in housing homeless Vets?

“Our primary focus is on assisting Vets with claims and appeals. That is the first step in qualifying for HUDVASH and other housing benefits.

 

What is your opinion of the Stand Downs in California?

“They are very important. The Veterans and the Community must come together to make it happen. The VA is doing their part. The VA needs the community to assist. Community involvement can enhance the Veteran’s Experience. Which also provides a positive experience for the Veteran’s families. The better they feel about themselves has a significant impact on the family.”

Your oversight helped us to provide legal services to many Homeless Veterans at the recent Stand Down at the VA. Richard, keep watching…

*Richard recently spoke at Congressman Ted Lieu’s Veterans Day Town Hall at the Wadsworth Theater. His service and career trajectory, which will be the topic for another day, was deeply moving and completely impressive. Like all Veterans, he is to be treasured.



It’s a New Day and the VA  

Who should be supporting the VA?

By

Marcie Polier Swartz
October 26, 2017

When I tell people I’ve launched a support group for the VA, I get these reactions the most:

            $ Isn’t that the Government’s job?

            ! Why haven’t they done more?

            *They announced that Master Plan, where is the new housing?

            ?Oh yeah, what’s happening?

I don’t think I’ve ever told you what connects me to the VA.

My dear father’s business, a chain of Army Navy Surplus stores paid our mortgage, put clothes on our backs and enabled us to go on family vacations. I used to watch him make sealed bids for government surplus.  In summers, when I worked at his warehouse, we counted inventory.  I smelled the leather in the WAC shoes.  Some of them fit me.  I counted uniforms, vests, coats.  They were made of different cloths - wool, thick cotton camouflage and solids.  The colors varied with OD Green (olive drab) predominating.  I loved the muted colors,  the feel of my hands running over the thick fabrics and the smell of the canvas.  It permeated the air.

My Uncle Marty is a Korean War Veteran.  He never talked about it.  I know he has ribbons and pins.  I’ve never seen them.  He was doing well in college before the war, but when he came back he worked in one of my father’s stores.  Then he had a Surplus store of his own.

My dearest brother is a six year Navy Vet.  The VA has been very good to him since his return in 1999. 

I don’t expect all of you will have similar reasons to feel connected to the VA although if you start asking you families and friends if there are Veterans amongst you, it might surprise you to find out just how close a Veteran is.  What is their story? 

And here is THE BIG REASON everyone can use to feel connected to our VA.  The original gift of lands to the VA was made by Arcadia Bandini de Baker, Senator John P. Jones and John Wolfskills totaling least 753 acres.    I have heard many stories as to total donated acreage over the years totaling up to 880 acres claimed by a Bandini heir at a Towne Hall meeting I attended.  Here is a link to some of the facts:  https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/veterans_affairs/pacific_branch.html

Much of that acreage was used for the 405 Freeway and Wilshire Boulevard.  Do you use these roads?  Does the use of these lands help you earn your living and visit friends; go to dinners and play at parks and beaches?  Do you feel connected to the VA now? 

Do you still need to ask what the VA is doing?  Or do you want to join us in helping the VA to uplift not only the Veterans but all of us as well.


It’s a New Day at the VA:
How Big is an Aircraft Carrier?

By

Marcie Polier Swartz
October 9, 2017

 

PHOTO: WLAVA Credit: losangelesva.gov

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Nimitz Aircraft Carrier is 4.5 acres long. All 19 American carriers add up to nearly 65 acres of deck space. That’s an average of 3.4 acres per vessel. Vessels can hold up to 6,000 service men and 60 aircraft. One hundred fourteen aircraft carriers would fit onto the 388 acres of the VA Greater Los Angeles Health Care System (VAGLAHCS) campus. Now picture them covering the campus from stem to stern.

Turn them around. Now!

That is the mandate coming from the underserved Veterans who are suffering because the VA isn’t yet the model we all hope for. And the criticism of the surrounding communities is unrelenting.  Can what’s perceived as wealthy communities really help homeless Vets and Vets currently under VA care?  Yes. Government agencies are very good at broad strokes. But they need local partners to build a thriving community, and progress on this front continues to be made.

Since January, 2015, the VA and LA Community Partners have housed over 8,000 Veterans and this number continues to grow. In June, Building 209 on the West Los Angeles VA Campus officially opened and now permanently houses 54 of our vulnerable Veterans. This is just the first step in the implementation of the draft Master Plan.

Our greatest need is the development of new housing and engaged landlords who will rent their units to our nation’s heroes. In a tightening market, the development of housing stock is a primary focus of the teams at the VA. There are still many more Veterans that need help in the VAGLAHCS catchment area, which includes Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Kern counties.

Two years ago, North Brentwood Village and the Brentwood Village Chamber of Commerce created Village for Vets (V4V) as a support group for the VA GLAHCS. V4V sustains the VA’s mission. Involved citizens and community leaders raise funds for the VA. Village for Vets contributions to the VA include meals for homeless Vets, supplies for permanent housing units, 100+ community volunteers for the upcoming Homeless to Housed Stand Down on Oct. 27 and 100+ volunteers for the Nov. 11 Veterans Parade.

So, where do you fit in?

You can volunteer or donate. The next big event is the “Homeless to Housed” Stand Down on Oct. 27. You can register or volunteer at  www.bwscampus.com/standdown

Along with a dynamic network of committed support groups, the VAGLAHCS is executing the new Master Plan and is becoming the beacon to Veterans they were always meant to be. The VA may have done it backwards by enabling some of the neighbors to grow and thrive around the main event, which never materialized. Well, it is now…

October 9, 2017

It’s a New Day at the WLA VA

By

Marcie Polier Swartz
August 26, 2017

 

Brentwood School, Blushington and Beauty Bus Foundation “Day of Beauty” for Veterans at Blushington in West Hollywood, California on Tuesday, August 1, 2017. Photo by Moloshok Photography, Inc.

This month: Working Together

Every day more than 50 homeless Veterans come to the VA even though they are not formally enrolled in a program.  The HUD VASH (Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Administration Supportive Housing) office does wonders processing them for low cost housing.  The Welcome Center provides showers and a big living room with TV screens and a great place to hang out.  And now Village for Vets, a charitable vehicle for the community at large to support our VA, has partnered with Meals on Wheels and the Westside Food Bank to feed the hungry Veterans. It costs barely $2.00 per meal or $500 per week to feed 50 a day.  If you are inclined to help, visit www.villageforvets.org and click on donate.

The VA recently asked Village for Vets to organize 100 volunteers for the 3rd Annual Homeless-to-Housed Veterans Stand-Down event hosted at the Veterans Welcome Center on Friday, October 27, 2017 from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Brentwood School (BWS) is making it a reality by creating an agile on-line registration program.  All volunteers will use this on-line form to register. Will you volunteer? Email us at info@villageforvets.org.

Brentwood School awarded 120 full scholarships to children of Veterans for Summer at Brentwood 2017. Blushington and Beauty Bus Foundation, each founded by BWS graduates, hosted A special Day of Beauty for female Veterans on August 1, 2017. They brought joy, laughter, and beautiful smiles to the faces and hearts of veterans. And, on August 17 at 8pm, New Directions (http://www.newdirectionsmn.com/) will use the Brentwood School Theater to put on an original play they created in conjunction with Imagination Workshop. Admission is free and the community is welcome.

The big news from UCLA this month is the opening of the UCLA legal clinic for Veterans on the WLA VA Campus on August 21, 2017.  The UCLA-GLA VA Family Wellness Center is also opening this month under the auspices of UCLA’s Nathanson Family Resilience Center.  The Center will help families to mitigate stress through family centered education and preventive care services.

UCLA’s newest class at the WLA VA, Phone-tography, is a bit hit. Due to demand Wordcommando, the popular writing class has added an additional day.  Under the instruction of Robert Morgan Fisher, aka Gunny, the veterans are not only learning how to express themselves but are getting published!

The vast acreage of the VA does not seem so big.  I’m getting to know it like the back of my hand.  You may wonder how the VA will accomplish the goal of creating a community on the campus.  They have already started, and we all play a crucial role. Go to www.villageforvets.org  to see how you can volunteer or donate. Go to BWS VA Partnership

to see how deep the programs at BWS go to support and effect better lives for the Vets on the VA Campus.  For more information about UCLA’s clinics and programs contact Patty Robinson Smith at pattyrobinsonsmith@gmail.com

 WATCH FOR:

SERVED LIKE A GIRL – a documentary film by Lysa Heslov covering the Miss Veteran America Pageant.  I saw the screening in August and what a moving way to get to know some of the women who choose to serve; how homelessness touches their lives and how they climb out of the abyss. Thank you again to Jaspen Boothe (pageant founder) and Lysa Heslov.

We’re all working together to help the VA create the Village for Veterans that it was always meant to have.  What will you do?

August 26, 2017

Volunteer at the VA "Stand Down"

By

Jeff Hall
July 20, 2017

The event isn’t until Oct. 27 but it’s not too early to sign up and give back to our Veterans.

One of the great satisfactions of being affiliated with Brentwood News is that often things we write about end up becoming the catalyst for positive connections. Sometimes these connections lead to very positive outcomes.

Last month, we wrote about 21-year-old Jacob Kaplan who was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Angiosarcoma. Jacob is the son of the owners of Brentwood Vacuum in Brentwood Village.

As a result of that article, a doctor in the area, who happens to specialize in this very disease, is now jumping in to help Jacob. Someone else who also suffers from the same cancer read the article and is now in touch with Jacob, offering “we’re in this together” support. Hooray! Good luck, Jacob. Brentwood is rooting for you.

Now we have another opportunity to pitch in.

Village for Vets, the nonprofit organization formed in 2016 for the surrounding communities to support the WLA VA, is seeking 100 volunteers to help organize the Stand Down that will take place on the VA campus Friday, Oct. 27.

Stand Down is the term used when combat troops rest after battle.

Our homeless veterans in Los Angeles are given a Stand Down every year. Volunteers gather at the VA to welcome homeless veterans, offering services like haircuts, access to medical and dental work, food, information about housing, pet spaying and women’s services.

This year the VA is expecting 1,500 veterans and family members to attend.

Volunteers are needed to assist with the registration booth, determining eligibility, serving food, the information booth, non-ambulatory veterans, setting up the night before, tearing down after 6 p.m. on the day of the event, parking, the water station and providing women’s support.

Last year, Maria’s Italian Kitchen donated 300 breakfast burritos. Village for Vets volunteers served breakfast to the Vets.

Michael Johnson of the WLA VA is organizing the VA side of things. Brentwood residents Marcie Polier Swartz and Pam Dawber are hoping to connect with prospective financial donors and volunteers.

My wife and I have already pledged to volunteer at the event. Two down, 98 to go. If you are interested in serving as a volunteer, email info@villageforvets.org. Donations can be made via the website: www.villageforvets.org

Hope to see you there!

July 20, 2017