One thing to be aware about w/the VA -- they are the federal gov't so their hiring process can be veeeeery slow. If you decide to go that route, be prepared to be persistent. Also, while their pay is competitive, it will not be the highest in the area -- but the benefits are pretty good and once you are in the VA system, if you like it you have amazing mobility.
I have heard lots of positive and negative things about the Legacy system.
Emmanuel in in an area that was traditionally black, it is now in transition. Besides Hawthorne, check out the Alberta Arts district and Mississippi Avenue -- these are the new "funky hip" areas that really have, if you ask me, eclipsed Hawthorne in a lot of ways. Further from "pill hill" (where the VA, OHSU, Shriners, Doernbecher Children's Hospital all are), but very accessible by bike and/or bus. All the busses, light rail, street cars and the tram take bikes (the busses have racks, the other you just take it on the transportation w/you). If you are an OHSU employee or student you can ride the tram for free, but if you wound up working at the VA, it would be spendy to use the tram (but there are busses that go directly to the VA). And you can
ride your bike up the hill too -- if you're in really good shape