June 26, 2008 – Yesterday, a federal judge in San Francisco dismissed a lawsuit filed by veterans’ groups that alleges the Department of Veteran’s Affairs is not providing adequate mental health services to veterans. In a nutshell, the judge found that, although many of the claims made by the veterans’ advocates are, in fact, a reality, it is outside the court’s jurisdiction to change the system or compel the federal government to act.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti confirmed that:
The VA is understaffed and takes an average of nearly 4 1/2 years to hear veterans’ appeals of benefit denials, and a long-range improvement plan the agency adopted four years ago is still mostly in the pilot stages, the judge said.
But Conti said, “The remedies sought by plaintiffs are beyond the power of this court and would call for a complete overhaul of the VA system.
Is a complete overhaul of the system really necessary to provide adequate services to veterans? The Chronicle goes on to report that Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, one of the plaintiff organizations, chose to look on the bright side of the ruling.
Conti “confirmed many of our allegations” and issued “a huge alarm bell for Congress and the VA to take action now,” said Sullivan, a Gulf War veteran.
Hopefully, this ruling will impel our nation’s leaders to work to ensure veterans receive mental health care services they need and deserve.