Appeals Court rules for Veterans[/caption]
Veterans have for several years had problems with VA mental heath issues and treatment. A forcefully worded opinion was recently issued by the Ninth Circuit in Veterans for Common Sense v. Shinseki. A sad statistic about Veterans noted in the opinion is that an average of 18 veterans commit suicide every day based on untreated mental illnesses. The court ordered VA to overhaul the VA mental health system so that Veteran suicides will be decreased. The Court held that it is unconstitutional for the VA to continue the status quo.
The Court says Veterans Shouldn’t have to Wait for VA Mental Health care
The AP reported quoting the Judge: “No more veterans should be compelled to agonize or perish while the government fails to perform its obligations,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for the three-judge panel. “Having chosen to honor and provide for our veterans by guaranteeing them the VA mental health care and other critical benefits to which they are entitled, the government may not deprive them of that support through unchallengeable and interminable delays.” He went on to state that: “[t]he delays have worsened in recent years, as the influx of injured troops returning from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan has placed an unprecedented strain on the VA, and has overwhelmed the system”.
Reported Scandals at VA in Texas
Faith in the system is something that is difficult under the circumstances. The VA mental health system has a very hard job but instead of attempting to address the problem directly and with zeal towards assisting Veterans many head administrators have engaged in acts of deceit and misdirection. An email from a VA deputy chief illustrates this point. “Shhh!” began a Feb. 13, 2008, e-mail from Dr. Ira Katz, a VA deputy chief. “Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among the veterans we see in our medical facilities. Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?” Clearly, some administrators in the VA are more interested in limiting public knowledge of the problem. Others have engaged in deliberate misdiagnosis and have exacerbated the problem by attempting to encourage some in the VA health system to not diagnosis PTSD. There was another email from a psychologist in Texas who asked her colleagues to not diagnose PTSD to such a great extent.
These emails should shake the public’s trust in the government’s ability to adequately care for Veterans. This is not just a problem for Veterans, although it is their well-being that is of utmost concern, but it does a tremendous disservice to all Americans since it erodes the public’s trust in our government, and its ability to care for some of the most important Americans. Hopefully this decision will be a wake up call to the VA. It is true that the VA’s mission is incredibly difficult, but the facts that have come to light in this lawsuit make it clear that they are woefully failing in its mission.