June 30 Lawsuit Update: Veterans Win on Facts, Yet Lose on Jurisdiction

Veterans for Common Sense

VCS Appeals Court Ruling Because No Veteran Gets Left Behind 

On Jun 25, 2008, U.S. Federal District Court Senior Judge Samuel Conti issued a detailed 82-page ruling where he concluded that VA is mired in crisis and that he is “troubled” by lengthy delays veterans face trying to obtain healthcare and benefits from VA. Sounds like the veterans won, right?

Unfortunately, Judge Conti said the Court lacks jurisdiction. We are deeply disappointed that he wants VA and Congress to fix VA’s enormous problems.

VCS plans to press forward so our veterans receive prompt and high-quality VA healthcare as well as fast, complete, and accurate VA claims decisions. Either we repair VA now, or we face another generation of hundreds of thousands of veterans with broken homes, lost jobs, drug and alcohol problems, homelessness, and suicide.

That’s why VCS will appeal the Court’s decision primarily on the Constitutional grounds that if the Judicial Branch does not enforce the law, then Legislative Branch actions become meaningless in the face of massive Executive Branch failures.

VCS needs your help to launch our lengthy and time-consuming appeal. Please click here to make a contribution to VCS today and support our work to overhaul VA for our veterans and their families.

Here are three important items about the Court’s ruling:

1. The Army Times provides the best newspaper coverage about the facts.

2. CBS News / KPIX TV broadcast a thorough review of the verdict.

3. You can read the Court’s decision and see VCS and Veterans United for Truth did the right thing to file suit.

VCS needs your help. In the past year we gathered veterans’ stories, we obtained hundreds of pages of VA documents under the Freedom of Information Act, we worked closely for hundreds of hours with our attorneys at Morrison & Foerster and Disability Rights Advocates, and we flew to San Francisco for the two week trial.

Please consider setting up a monthly or quarterly contribution to VCS today so we can fight for our veterans.

Here is a sample of e-mails showing the broad public and veteran support of our lawsuit:

• “Your efforts will make life better for . . . veterans.”
• “Thanks for all the hard work.”
• “It was a great effort. The fact you were able to get the VA attitude out in the public, presented as evidence in a federal court, was of critical importance…. KEEP IT UP!”
• “I think you did a terrific job of exposing the tragedy of the veterans with the law suit.”
• “All of you working on this should be proud of yourselves.”
• “You have accomplished a great deal and there still things to do. This is only the beginning of the fight; end of round one.”

There is a lot more work ahead as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars continue. As of April 2008, VA medical centers have treated 325,000 recent combat veterans, including 133,000 with a mental health condition, 75,000 of whom are diagnosed with PTSD.

Although we have a temporary setback, our landmark lawsuit with VUFT achieved several important goals for veterans:

• VA opened a suicide hotline, received tens of thousands of calls from highly distraught veterans, and “rescued” hundreds.

• VA hired thousands of new mental health professionals, including hundreds of suicide prevention coordinators at their hospitals and clinics.

• A trove of VA e-mails confirmed the suicide epidemic of 1,000 VA patient attempts per month. In addition, death statistics reveal that younger veterans are 3 to 4 times more likely to kill themselves than non-veterans of the same age group. Read more of the facts uncovered by our lawsuit – facts Judge Conti agreed with.

Congress held several oversight hearings on VA’s crisis where VCS testified. Now several critical pieces of legislation inspired by our lawsuit should become law by the end of 2008. VA was also forced to explain why they concealed the suicide epidemic and why some VA staff fought against proper healthcare and disability benefits for PTSD.

• Several major media outlets now have full- or part-time journalists dedicated to investigating the human consequences of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Please give to VCS today so we can win our appeal on behalf of all our veterans!

Paul Sullivan, Executive Director, Veterans for Common Sense

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