Appeals Court Blasts VA for Mental Health “Incompetence”
Sunday, May 15, 2011
The Department of Veterans Affairs was blasted this week by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for bungling both the care of veterans and the processing of disability benefit claims.
In a case brought by veterans advocates, the appellate court’s 2-1 majority ruled “that the VA’s failure to provide adequate procedures for veterans facing prejudicial delays in the delivery of mental health care violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote that “VA’s unchecked incompetence has gone on long enough. No more veterans should be compelled to agonize or perish while the government fails to perform its obligations.”
Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth sued the VA to force it to immediately treat war veterans, especially the 192,000 who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and showed signs of having post-traumatic stress disorder. Also, the plaintiffs wanted the court to demand an overhaul of the VA’s systems for handling disability benefits claims and medical services.
The Ninth Circuit gave the veterans groups what they sought, by ordering VA officials to implement a “systemwide” plan to address a shortage of suicide counselors at 800 outpatient clinics used by veterans and to take action to clear up the backlog of pending claims.
Court Demands Mental Health Care Reform for Veterans, Cites VA’s “Unchecked Incompetence” (by Jason Leopold, Truthout)
Veterans for Common Sense v. Department of Veterans Affairs (Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) (pdf)
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