and encourage [veterans] in applying for and obtaining . . . benefits and services in order that they may . . . obtain a higher standard of living for themselves. . . ." See 38 U.S.C. § 240. There is no danger that allowing these organizations to sue the VA will severely disrupt any "complex and delicate administrative scheme." Clarke, supra, 107 S. Ct. at 757. The plaintiff organizations have standing to bring this action.
III. THE VETERANS OUTREACH SERVICES PROGRAM IMPOSES NO AFFIRMATIVE DUTY ON THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION TO IMPLEMENT SYSTEMATIC, NATIONWIDE GUIDELINES AS PROPOSED BY PLAINTIFFS TO ADDRESS THE NEEDS OF HOMELESS VETERANS
Plaintiffs allege that the VA and its administrator have violated a purported statutory obligation to establish minimum standards for conducting outreach to homeless veterans. See Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment at 1. An analysis of the statute indicates that Congress did not require that the VA establish minimum standards for outreach to any particular group of veterans, but rather that the VA shall provide outreach services to all veterans "to the maximum feasible extent" or "to the maximum extent possible." See 38 U.S.C. § 241.
While Congress has directed that the VA shall establish outreach services, the manner in which those services are to be provided has been left to the discretion of the agency. The absence of statutory guidelines "does not render the agency's decisions completely nonreviewable." Robbins v. Reagan, 250 U.S. App. D.C. 375, 780 F.2d 37, 45 (D.C. Cir. 1985). Thus, for example, an agency must make some effort at adopting regulations or guidelines that give effect to Congress' commitment to a particular concern. See, e.g., Charette v. Bergland, 457 F. Supp. 1197, 1202 (D.R.I. 1978). An agency cannot issue regulations and directives which are inconsistent with an act of Congress. See, e.g., Bennett v. Butz, 386 F. Supp. 1059, 1065 (D.Minn. 1974). However, where the agency has implemented a program consistent with a congressional statute, a plaintiff has no cause of action to enjoin an agency where he disagrees with the manner in which the agency has chosen to proceed or where he alleges that his alternative would in no way impede the agency's ability to render decisions on how to proceed.
The scope of judicial review in this case is limited under the Administrative Procedure Act to a determination by the Court as to whether the VA and its administrator have unlawfully withheld agency action, 5 U.S.C. § 706(1), or have acted in a manner that could be characterized as "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law," 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A). The VA surely does not have discretion to decide not to conduct outreach services. However, the uncontroverted evidence indicates that the VA is complying with its mandatory obligations under the statute
and has developed various programs and services to satisfy its obligation to see that outreach services are provided to the maximum extent possible. But, as defendants correctly point out, the statute "does not require or even suggest any specific amount of allocation of limited resources to, or any specific mandatory means of addressing, the outreach needs of homeless veterans." Defendants' Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Their Motion to Dismiss the Case, and in Opposition to the Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction at 18.
Plaintiffs' contention that the only effective outreach is systematic outreach employing the guidelines proffered by the plaintiffs, see Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment at 10, finds no basis in the statute or any other authority. In fact, plaintiffs cite no authority in support of their proposition that the only "true outreach" is outreach predicated upon plaintiffs' guidelines. See Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction at 29 ("Outreach which is without structure or minimum standards [is] . . . wholly ineffective [and] . . . is tantamount to no outreach at all."). Plaintiffs are also incorrect in stating that the VA has ignored "an entire category of desperately needy veterans -- homeless veterans." Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment at 2. First, the statute does not require the VA to categorize veterans for purposes of providing outreach services. Second, the VA has developed specific guidelines, contained within its manual, aimed at addressing the problems of homeless veterans. See, e.g., Horton Declaration para. 5; Defendants' Exhibits G, H, and I; attachment (M27-1, para. 12.11) to Defendants' Statement of Material Facts as to Which There is No Genuine Issue. The VA has established a "Working Group on Homelessness." Horton Declaration para. 16. VA staff have visited many homeless shelters on a regular basis, and in other cases, on a periodic basis. Moses Declaration para. 3. These efforts, among others, are consistent and in compliance with the VA's statutory obligation to provide outreach services to veterans.
The Court sympathizes with the plaintiffs' objectives, and does not doubt that the VA itself would like to do more if it could. However, the relief sought by the plaintiffs in this case is a matter that must be addressed by Congress in the first instance. The statute as currently written simply does not require the VA to undertake the actions in the manner that plaintiffs would like to see implemented. The Court concludes that the VA's actions in reaching out to homeless veterans are reasonably consistent with Congress' goal of requiring the VA to provide outreach services, to the maximum extent possible, to all veterans. There is no affirmative obligation on the VA to provide outreach services to homeless veterans in the manner of a systematic, nationwide set of guidelines as proposed by the plaintiffs.
An Order will issue on even date herewith in accordance with this Opinion.
In accordance with the Opinion of the Court issued on even date herewith, it is by the Court this 13th day of January, 1988,
ORDERED that plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment be, and hereby is, denied; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that defendants' motion for summary judgment be, and hereby is, granted.