Tuesday, May 10, 2011

9th Circuit Court Blames Congress and President For Not Helping Veterans

On Tuesday the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued a 104 page decision that cited the failure
of the political branches to correct what it called the VA's "egregious problems" and "unchecked
incompetence" in delivering mental health care to veterans.

The three judge panel said this failure violated veterans' due process rights under the U.S.
Constitution. 

The court said that examples show that veterans with PTSD or severe depression were often
forced to wait over eight weeks to receive mental health referrals. It also said that some veterans
committed suicide while waiting for help.

The court said that over 84,000 veterans are waiting for assistance with no legal means to
challenge these delays. The court added that these delays "can mean the difference between
life and death." An average of 18 veterans commit suicide every day.

In 2007, two nonprofit organizations, Veterans for Commons Sense and Veterans United
for Truth had sued the VA claiming "shameful failures" to care for wounded veterans.
This claim was dismissed by the California district court which said the court did not have
the jurisdiction to implement or interfere with the VA's mental health program.

The three judge panel acknowledged that it's intervention in VA affairs was an "extraordinary
step" and this was better suited for Congress or the president.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote that the panel concluded that the political branches had
"so completely and chronically failed" to respect veterans' rights that the court had to
intervene.

"No more veterans should be compelled to agonize or perish while the government fails
to perform its obligations," the opinion said.

The 9th Circuit Court sent the case back to the lower court to determine what changes
are needed to ensure that veterans in need of mental health care receive prompt treatment
and those with urgent problems receive immediate care.

A lawyer for the two veterans' groups Heather Moser, called the decision "monumental" for
recognizing that veterans' have a constitutional right to mental health care in
a timely manner.

Jerald Terwilliger
National Chairman
American Cold War Veterans
"We Remember"

---------------- "And so the greatest of American triumphs... became a peculiarly joyless victory. We had won the Cold War, but there would be no parades." -- Robert M. Gates, 1996