A major San Diego County VA facility could be renamed to honor a woman, possibly in La Jolla

The San Diego VA Medical Center in La Jolla
The San Diego VA Medical Center in La Jolla is one of two eligible VA facilities in San Diego County that could be renamed after a female veteran under a proposal by Congressman Mike Levin.

Ten percent of U.S. veterans are women, yet no VA facilities are named after a female service member.

If 49th District Congressman Mike Levin gets his wish, one of two San Diego County VA facilities — possibly the San Diego VA Medical Center in La Jolla — soon will be named after a female veteran.

Levin calls the conclusion of a recently released Veterans Affairs advisory committee report “stunning.”

“Not a single VA facility anywhere in the United States is named after a woman veteran,” he noted.

Calling that unacceptable, Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) announced on Veterans Day his formation of an advisory panel of veterans, active military members and others, chaired by Carlsbad Army veteran Karin Brennan.

The committee’s orders are to return before Memorial Day with recommendations of worthy female veterans with ties to this region deserving of having a VA facility bear their name.

The VA’s other eligible facility in San Diego County is the Oceanside VA Clinic.

Brennan said she is overjoyed to not only help honor a deserving veteran but a female veteran. “So many people are unaware of how many women have served and also been injured and died in the service of our country,” she said.

Brennan, a veteran of Cold War intelligence operations behind the Iron Curtain, said she was inspired by women such as Capt. Lillian Daly, the first female Marine to serve at Camp Pendleton a year after the base was dedicated in 1942.

Currently there are 2 million female U.S. military veterans (about 10 percent of the veteran population), according to VA statistics. The proportion of women is expected to climb to 18 percent within 25 years.

Brennan has asked the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation in Arlington, Va., which has an extensive database, for information regarding female service members tied to San Diego-area ZIP codes. “We’ll be doing quite an extensive search,” she said.

There are two major caveats: They must be deceased and have a connection to this area.

Several suggestions were received after Levin, who is on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, announced his proposal.

The VA, while agreeing in concept with the advisory committee’s recommendation, pointed out that it can’t implement the name changes without a congressional directive.

So after the Levin-formed 11-member committee returns with a list of women with local ties deserving of the honor, Levin plans to draft legislation to present to Congress, which has the authority to name federal property after people.

Levin’s team has contacted several veterans groups — including the Veterans Services Organization, Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts — and will speak with his local legislative colleagues to try to generate bipartisan support.

San Diego County could become the first to break the female recognition barrier in VA facilities.

A similar bill introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) sailed through the House and awaits Senate approval. It proposes naming a VA health care facility in Manhattan the Margaret Cochran Corbin Campus of the New York Harbor Health Care System. Corbin, who died in 1789, fought alongside her husband in the Revolutionary War.

If not passed by the Senate and signed by President Donald Trump before he leaves office, the bill would have to be reintroduced.

— Diane Bell is a columnist for The San Diego Union-Tribune. La Jolla Light staff contributed to this report.