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Mental Health Benefits for Veterans Lawsuit Dismissed

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, June 25, 2008 6:49 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: Mental Health, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Wrongful Death, Head and Brain Injuries

A lawsuit filed by two veterans groups who contend that mental health benefits are unavailable, was dismissed by a district judge in San Francisco.

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IMAGE SOURCE:  Wikimedia Commons/ soldier in Iraq/ author: Sgt. Luis R. Agostini

 

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.  #


3 Comments

Anonymous User
Posted by bob handy
Friday, June 27, 2008 7:29 PM EST

Recently Federal District Judge Samuel Conti decided in the class action lawsuit in which we (Veterans United For Truth and Veterans for Common Sense) were plaintiffs, that the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) was failing in many cases in providing mental health services to returning veterans. Unfortunately he also decided that he did not have jurisdiction at his level to compel changes in the DVA’s procedures.



While we are disappointed with Judge Conti's decision that he lacked jurisdiction, and do not agree that we did not prove the “systemic” nature of these problems, this outcome is far from being all bad. We knew that it was a crap shoot going in, but we were sure that he had the necessary jurisdiction. We also knew that no matter how he decided, the case would most likely end up before the Supreme Court. Of course we had hoped to be defending Judge Conti's decision against an appeal by the DVA; now we will be appealing his decision in the Ninth Circuit.



When we started out, we knew that we were in it for the long haul. We won round one, just by getting the case heard in federal court, since the DVA and the Department of Justice both attempted multiple times to have us disqualified as plaintiffs, and denied that the federal court had any right even to examine DVA procedures and policies..



We lost part of round two. It may be a setback, but it succeeded in large part since Judge Conti’s ruling expressed agreement with much of our complaint. Additionally The DVA has been exposed not only to the Congress, but also to the national and international media, who have stepped up their reporting on the shoddy treatment that the VA has been providing to returning veterans, and to the repeated delay and denial of service by the DVA..



Americas veterans will be forever in the debt of Morrison & Foerster, LLP and Disability Rights Advocates, the two law firms that took on the DVA pro bono.





Bob Handy, HMC USN (Ret)
Chair, Veterans United For Truth. Inc

LINK

PO Box 4476
Santa Barbara Ca 93140



805 455 5259 cell

Anonymous User
Posted by Arlene
Sunday, June 29, 2008 5:50 AM EST

Present Vets aren't the only ones the VA denies treatment to for PTSD. Vietnam Vets are having problems also and being told "There is nothing wrong with you. Go home and quite bothering us." That is why a lot of Vets don't say anything for years and decades. I just convinced my husband to get checked for PTSD associated with his service in Vietnam. He has had problems for years, but I am the one who notices what goes on since it is mainly when he is asleep that things happen. When he went to his C & P appointment I went along since he doesn't really know what happens while he is asleep. I feel the Doctor ignored what I said and decided there was nothing wrong. Now we will have to fight this and probably be told for a second time there is nothing wrong with him. I know different, but what do I know? I am just a wife of 35+ years who has lived with this for the whole time we have been married. Yes! It was worse when we first got married, but he still has problems to this day. Some days are worse than others. Some nights I get very little sleep when he thrashes around thinking he is back in Nam. At least I don't get kicked out of bed as much now. When we first got married it was every night ending up on the floor because of his nightmares. I guess I put up with it because I am a Vet myself. I just didn't end up in Nam. I did have to put up with the "Baby Killer" crap though. Plenty of protesters tried to ruin my uniform also when I had to wear it "Off Base." So I know about some of the stuff these guys had to go through. In fact, I still have nightmares myself, but have learned to live with it.

Anonymous User
Posted by Vietnam Tom
Monday, June 30, 2008 12:55 PM EST

Depression 24/7 no sleep just some fitfull flashbacks, the same terror running over and over again in my head only a bullet can fix. Holding human body parts that were my buddy just a few minutes earlier. I picked up dead before I was 21 years old. The VA only cares about covering their ass and securing their job.I am still a babay killer scum I see in their eyes. I watch the doctor look at the back pain the guy that runs the desk is complaining about as if it was his son he was caring for. I go into the doctors office and he starts typing refilling my pills I have stacked up in a corner they do more harm then good. I smashed up two of my vehicles trying to drive the 140 miles for a 15 minute doctor visit as messed up can't walk or sit for 5 minutes let alone drive for an hour and a half. And they call me one of the lucky ones. Go sit in any VAMC and watch the pitifull come and wait all day cause the bus only makes one trip a day. HELL is here right now and the devil is on your shoulder. You'll see him soon enough. GOD would let me go to sleep and never wake up. Mental Health Benefits for Veterans Lawsuit Dismissed
Posted by Jane Akre
Way to go Judge!!!

Comments for this article are closed.

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