Editorial Column: More on That Veterans’ Lawsuit Against VA Claims Delays

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

December 10, 2008 – The government is seeking dismissal of a recent lawsuit noted here recently.

It was filed last month by the Vietnam Veterans of America and Veterans of Modern Warfare, and seeks to compel the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to decide disability claims in a more timely manner.

Among several arguments, the government in a Dec. 4 response argues that timely VA decisions are the responsibility of the legislative branch, not the judiciary.

“Plaintiffs’ public policy grievances may or may not be well-taken, but that is a question for the representative branches of government, not this Court,” the government’s motion says.

Such motions to dismiss are routine. The nature of the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is not.

The VVA and its designated legacy group, the VMW – composed of veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf War to present – took the unusual action out of long-standing frustrations voiced by a growing number of veterans, saying it often takes years, sometimes a decade, to settle a claim for a physical or mental disability, or both.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, says its aim is “to compel the United States Department of Veterans Affairs to make timely determinations for disability benefits by veterans of the Armed Forces…

“The VA is and long has been failing to decide claims for veterans benefits and to resolve appeals of those claims on anything even approaching a timely basis. “

The lawsuit demands that the VA provide an initial decision on disability benefit claims within 90 days, resolve appeals within 180 days, and seeks relief to provide a lifeline of interim benefits if the VA delays last beyond the limit.

The VVA and VMW are providing regular public updates.

The next steps to watch take place:

# Dec. 11, a VVA/VMW written response to the government’s motion to dismiss.
# Dec. 17, a hearing in Washington, D.C.

The veterans groups say they are “encouraged” by the judge’s aggressive schedule so far in hearing the matter.

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