Federal Judge Urges Deal in Suit Over Vets’ Mental Health Services
On Wednesday, a federal appeals court judge in San Francisco urged lawyers for two military veterans' advocacy groups to reach an agreement with the Department of Justice on improvements to veterans' mental health care, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
In 2007, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth filed a lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs, saying that the agency failed to provide adequate mental health treatment to thousands of military members because of unnecessary exam requirements, referral and treatment delays, and a complicated benefits system.
The groups said VA has a backlog of 900,000 disability claims and it takes an average of more than four years to make decisions on veterans' appeals for benefits. The agency also does not allow veterans to hire lawyers to represent them in their initial claims, according to the groups.
At the hearing, Gordon Erspamer, a lawyer for the groups, said that VA mental health care has not improved since the issue was raised, adding, "The time has come for a court to act."
Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the court will issue a ruling at a later time unless the two parties are able to reach a settlement within a week or request more time.
DOJ attorney Daniel Scarborough said the federal government was "not optimistic this is something that can be settled" (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/13).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.