A federal court in San Francisco has ordered the Department of Veterans Affairs to release documents concerning its denial of care to veterans seeking care for conditions such as PTSD. The order is expected to permit a class action against the VA to go forward. The litigation was brought by several nonprofit groups, Disability Rights Advocates, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth. The complaint alleges that the VA’s system for handling disability claims and appeals is so dysfunctional that it violates the constitutional and statutory rights of veterans. The suit also seeks court orders mandating the VA to provide immediate medical and psychological help to returning troops, and to screen them for suicide risks.
Recent investigations by various news organizations have shown that the VA has a backlog of over 600,000 applications and a claim can take as long as 12 years to be resolved through the appeal process. The McClatchy newspapers reported that veterans wait, on average, 183 days for the VA to initially decide a claim. In 2005, CBS reported that at least 6,256 suicides had occurred among those who served. Last November, it reported that veterans were killing themselves at a rate of 120 per week.
Source: Vets Cleared to Sue US Over PTSD Claims, January 17, 2008, www.commondreams.org.