U.S veterans file lawsuit over healthcare failings

U.S. veterans filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), accusing it of failing to provide proper medical and mental healthcare for them.

U.S veterans file lawsuit over healthcare failings
U.S. veterans filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), accusing it of failing to provide proper medical and mental healthcare for them.

The lawsuit contends that troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are not getting proper medical and mental health care, citing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a particular problem.

The 73-page lawsuit, proposed to a San Francisco court for class-action status on behalf of hundreds of thousands of veterans, calls VA's inaction "shameful failures."

"The VA's outmoded systems for providing medical care and disability benefits" have been overwhelmed by "the huge influx of injured troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan," says the lawsuit.

In particular, attorneys for the plaintiffs say the VA is " structurally unsuitable" for dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, which the lawsuit calls "a signature problem of veterans" of the current ongoing wars.

Only 27 of the VA's 1,400 hospitals around the country have in-patient PTSD programs, the plaintiffs' lawyers said.

A recent report by a special Pentagon Task Force found that 38 percent of soldiers and 50 percent of National Guard members returning from Iraq or Afghanistan have mental health issues, ranging from PTSD to brain injuries.

"A number of veterans have committed suicide shortly after having been turned away from VA facilities either because they were told they were ineligible or because the wait was too long," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit accuses VA of violating veterans' entitlement to benefits under U.S. law. In addition, the plaintiffs' lawyers assert that the procedures the VA uses to handle claims and appeals against denied claims violate the veterans' constitutional rights to due process of law under the 5th Amendment and their right to petition for redress, guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Moreover, the suit contends that the VA "has consistently presented misleading statistics," falsely understating the length of time it takes to decide a claim, the number of veterans who need mental health services and the amount of money the agency needs to meet its obligations to veterans.

"Because of those failures, hundreds of thousands of men and women who have suffered grievous injuries fighting in the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are being abandoned," the complaint states.

"Unless systematic and drastic measures are instituted immediately, the costs to these veterans, their families, and our nation will be incalculable, including broken families, a new generation of unemployed and homeless veterans, increases in drug abuse and alcoholism, and crushing burdens on the healthcare delivery system and other social services in our communities," the lawsuit warns.

The named plaintiffs are two veterans' advocacy groups, Veterans for Common Sense, based in Washington, D.C., and Veterans United for Truth, based in Santa Barbara, California. The defendants include outgoing VA chief R. James Nicholson, several other ranking VA officials and U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 24 Temmuz 2007, 19:27
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