We need the Civilian population Now to come to the Aid of this Countries Veterans and start a Hard Lobby, to their Representatives, in Support of it’s Veterans!
Especially for these Veterans of todays Conflicts, Support from the Country that was Overwelming, over 70%, in Favor of Invasion and Occupation and now Pays Little Heed to!
June 25, 2008
Contact: Amy Fairweather, Iraq Veteran Project (415) 252-4787 ext 356, (415)505-6558
Elinor Roberts, Legal Director (415) 252-4787 ext 317
WHAT: Decision After Trial-VCS, et al. v. Peake, et al.
JUDGE: Senior Judge Samuel Conti, United States District Court, Northern District of California.
Senior Federal District Court Judge Samuel Conti has ruled against veterans with PTSD, traumatic brain injury and other disabilities. The case, VCS et al. V. Peake et al. was brought on behalf of veterans to remedy the Department of Veterans Affairs failure to provide timely and adequate mental health care to veterans and to address the VA’s failure to provide fair and timely adjudication of veterans’ disability claims.
Judge Conti acknowledged the VA’s failings but ruled that it is not within the court’s power to remedy the situation.
Michael Blecker, Director of Swords to Plowshares, comments that, “Everyday that goes by without action, another 18 veterans commit suicide and hundreds of thousands of veterans are denied mental health care and the compensation they need to survive. At Swords to Plowshares, we deal everyday with homeless and mentally ill veterans. These veterans need medical care and disability compensation in the near term to prevent the outcomes we still see among our homeless Vietnam era clients. Veterans are giving up, committing suicide, it is a tragedy.”
Elinor Roberts, Swords to Plowshares Legal Director added, “The Court’s ruling is very disappointing, the decision lays out in great detail the failures of the VA, and yet the court will not act. If the Administration and Congress were exercising proper oversight of the VA, then these veterans would not have had to resort to the courts. The VA benefits system should have out a welcome mat, not a locked gate for desperate veterans to pound on to get in – or die waiting for it to open.”
The VA is under equipped to handle their existing caseload and take on an unprecedented wave of new veterans with traumatic brain injury and PTSD. Over 1.7 million service members have been deployed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of them repeatedly. The conditions in these wars are a recipe for PTSD, the urban combat, repeated deployments, 24/7 and 360 degree exposure to extreme combat trauma. Approximately one third of those returning from combat have PTSD or some mental health need.
These disabled veterans have to wait at least 6 months for an initial determination of their disability claims, and appeals can last years. In the meantime they are without resources, they are falling into poverty, unable to work and stuck in a bureaucratic battle for their earned disability compensation. The number of veteran suicides is overwhelming, with over 120 veterans taking their own lives every week, and 1000 suicide attempts per month amongst veterans under VA care. The suicide rate of veterans is at least three times the national suicide rate and in 2005, the suicide rate for veterans 18-24 years old was three to four times higher than non-veterans.
Amy Fairweather, Director of Swords to Plowshares Iraq Veteran Project adds, “There are good people on the ground in VA offices and vet centers, providing care, but the leadership made no provision to meet the wave of new combat veterans. There is no consistency of care, we get a steady stream of calls from Iraq veterans and their families struggling without care and benefits. The homelessness, joblessness, broken families and suicide, are heartbreaking.”
“We had hoped that the Judge would call for some independent oversight of the VA’s mental health services, to bring some consistency and accountability to the treatment of our veterans. We hope for a different outcome in the plaintiffs appeal. In the meantime, veterans and their families wait, suffer and die needlessly.”
Additional news reports.
San Francisco Chronicle: Judge dismisses suit charging VA with shoddy mental health care