Veterans Lose in Court

Courts have no right to tell the VA how to improve the way veterans are being treated for health issues, mental or otherwise.

That was the gist of a ruling handed down May 8 by a federal appeals court.

“As much as we may wish for expeditious improvement in the way the VA handles mental health care and service-related disability compensation,” said Judge Jay Bybee of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, “such responsibilities are left to Congress and the executive” under federal law.

The court, based in San Francisco, in effect formally dismissed legal action going back five years that has been waged by veterans’ groups. The dismissal followed a decision by a panel of judges authorized by the Ninth Circuit appellate court to consider action on the issue. The panel ruled 10-1 against the case brought by the veterans’ groups.

In a 2007 lawsuit, two veterans’ groups argued that the Department of Veterans Affairs had made mental-health care virtually unavailable to thousands of discharged military personnel through long waits for treatment, perfunctory exams, and a prolonged process of seeking medical benefits by which veterans could not call on legal counsel for help.

Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle.

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