Preserving A Home for Veterans

January 19, 2011

Dilworth Paxson Teams With Metabolic Studio on Position Paper: "Preserving A Home for Veterans"

The position paper, entitled "Preserving A Home for Veterans," is a product of the Metabolic Studio, a direct charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation led by artist Lauren Bon, a director of the Annenberg Foundation. The Annenberg Foundation and the Metabolic Studio are clients of Dilworth Paxson LLP. The Annenberg Foundation has been a leader in the philanthropic support of American civics, with a proven commitment to veterans, for over half a century. This paper addresses the breach of trust and the violation of the fiduciary duty of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) in failing to adhere to the restrictions imposed upon it pursuant to an 1888 deed (“1888 Deed”), under which land in West Los Angeles (“WLA”) that was donated to the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (“National Home”) was required to be permanently used as a home for disabled veterans.

It is the position of the Metabolic Studio that the restrictions imposed under the 1888 Deed created a charitable (or public) trust under which the National Home had a legally imposed fiduciary duty as a trustee to permanently use the donated land as a home for veterans. Consequently, as successor to the National Home, the VA holds the donated land only in the capacity of a trustee and is subject to such legally imposed fiduciary duty. Under applicable law, the donated land can only be used in a manner that directly contributes to the provision of a home for veterans, and the VA is not permitted to divert the use of the land for another or different purpose, even if such other use results in rental or other income to the VA.

Rather than adhering to its obligation under the 1888 Deed, the VA has chosen to jettison the restrictions placed on the donated land on its own whim. In doing so, the VA has turned its back on the fiduciary duty that the acceptance of a restricted donation of land imposed upon it. Indeed, rather than using the donated land as a home for veterans, the status of a veteran on the WLA VA has shifted from that of “resident” of a home to that of “patient” in a hospital to be charged, cured and moved on. Moreover, the VA has used the donated land for a multitude of purposes that, beyond any doubt, do not directly contribute to the provision of a veterans’ home. Even worse, these other uses effectively bar the use of the donated land from its dedicated purpose as a home for veterans. Notably in this regard, land-sharing agreements between the VA and commercial and other organizations continue to put the donated land to uses that have absolutely nothing to do with providing a home for veterans, but are in fact antithetical to such use.

This position paper is intended to elucidate the land use issues of the VA of WLA that should be considered going forward and to serve as evidence of a clear and present need for a discussion and review of these issues at this stage in the evolution of the 1888 Deed.

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