A lawsuit that accused the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs of failing to take care of the mental health needs of returning troops, has been dropped by a federal judge in San Francisco.
The groups had been seeking a court order to improve the mental health care of troops from all around the country and to streamline the processing and delivery of benefits. The ruling follows a two-week trial last month.
The groups want to better address the high rate of suicide among veterans who commit between three and more than seven times more than the national average.
There are reportedly 18 suicides a day among all veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 1,000 attempts a month among those who are receiving benefits under the VA.
A study earlier this year said that at least nine percent of returning U.S. troops have experienced PTSD.
PTSD is characterized by sudden outbursts of anger, an inability to sleep and concentrate, hopelessness and reliving the event.
Another study conducted by The Institutes of Medicine, had indicated that about 12.6 percent of Iraq servicemen and women and 6.2 percent of those in Afghanistan have experienced PTSD.
Headlines across America talk about returning veterans who go ballistic.
One took an AK-47 assault rifle into a late night 7-11 wearing his combat uniform. The 20-year-old needed alcohol to sleep. Matthew Sepi allegedly killed who he perceived to be an enemy. He is facing murder charges.
The New York Times found 121 cases of veterans committing or being charged with killings after returning from the war. Alcohol abuse, family disruption, and mental instability all become part of the picture. Some turned on family members, some turned on other soldiers. Most of the veterans were still in the military.
The groups say that mental health treatment is virtually unavailable, and that the breakdown of the VA has led to an epidemic of suicides. They also charge that discharged soldiers have to jump through hoops of a complex system of delivery.
Plaintiffs had wanted the VA to set timetables for the delivery of benefits and to allow vets to have lawyers as representatives. They also wanted a special master to oversee delivery.
Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth filed the action. But U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Conti said that overhauling the VA system I, “something clearly outside this court’s jurisdiction.”
In the 82-page decision the judge wrote that Congress has directed the Veterans Administration to take care of veterans’ medical care, not district courts.
“The court can find no systemic violations system-wide that would compel district court intervention,” Judge Conti ruled.
A veteran is entitled to five years of military medical care from the VA after discharge. Among the nation’s 24 million veterans, about 30 percent reportedly receive that care.
An appeal of the ruling is expected. #