Powers v. McDonough: United States District Court Allows Veterans’ Claims for Housing to Go Forward

Veteran plaintiffs and advocates celebrate with attorneys from Public Counsel and Robins Kaplan outside the First Street U.S. Courthouse on Dec. 14, 2023, after winning a major ruling supporting their class action to hold the VA accountable for its failure to provide housing and healthcare to veterans with disabilities.

In November 2022, fourteen courageous veterans experiencing homelessness, together with the National Veterans Foundation, sued the federal government for its persistent failure to provide housing and healthcare to veterans with disabilities. Many veterans face lifelong consequences after returning from service, including depression, serious mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, and addiction. Despite promising to construct 1,200 units of new permanent supportive housing in a 2015 settlement, the government had failed to build a single new unit at the time Public Counsel and its co-counsel—Robins Kaplan LLP, Brown Goldstein & Levy, LLP, and Inner City Law Center—filed this lawsuit.

In September 2023, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter asked the parties to submit arguments regarding the federal court’s authority to hear claims under the Rehabilitation Act. With robust amicus support from the ACLU and six preeminent legal scholars, Plaintiffs successfully argued for the case to proceed. As Mark Rosenbaum told the LA Times: “It’s a historic ruling[.] I think it’s the beginning of the end of veterans homelessness in Los Angeles and the nation.”

Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Law project is grateful that Judge Carter recognized that our clients’ claims can and should proceed. As Amanda Mangaser Savage, OUL Supervising Senior Staff Attorney, states: “As unhoused veterans continue to suffer and die on the streets of Los Angeles, the federal government’s refusal to build necessary housing—on an area equivalent to 293 football fields, no less—is not only unconscionable; it is unlawful.” 

We are committed to vindicating the rights of veterans with disabilities to receive the housing and healthcare required by federal law and promised to them by the federal government—both in Los Angeles (the veteran homelessness capital of the United States) and throughout our nation. Read more about our lawsuit here.

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