“Epidemic of suicides”
Veterans’ claims of inadequate care go to trial

Written by FCJ Editor. Posted in News

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Published on April 19, 2008 with 1 Comment

By Julia Cheever

April 19, 2008

A two-week federal trial will begin in San Francisco on Monday on claims by two veterans’ groups that the government is failing woefully to combat an alleged “epidemic of suicides” and stress disorders among veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam.

Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth are asking U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti for a broad injunction requiring the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to improve mental health services and the procedures for processing claims.

Charging that veterans “are in desperate need of ongoing care and support,” they cite a backlog of 600,000 veterans’ claims and an expert’s estimate that 120 veterans commit suicide each week.

Conti will decide the case without a jury because the veterans’ lawsuit, filed last year, seeks court orders as a remedy but does not ask for financial compensation.

Lawyers for the groups contend that inadequate care and obstacles in processing claims “combine to create a perfect storm” for veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder.

“They receive no treatment, so their symptoms get worse; and they receive no compensation, so they cannot go elsewhere for treatment,” the attorneys wrote in a pretrial brief.

Katrina Corbit, a lawyer from Berkeley-based Disability Rights Advocates who is working on the case, said Friday, “The problems are fixable, but they need an external nudge.”

But lawyers for the veterans affairs department, known as the VA, say external management by a judge is far beyond the authority allowed to courts by Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Government lawyers argued in a pretrial brief, “This court simply does not have authority to grant the kind of broad remedial – indeed, legislative – relief sought by plaintiffs.”

The federal attorneys also say the VA has taken aggressive measures in the last several years to increase mental health staffing and suicide prevention programs at its 153 medical centers across the nation.

Witnesses to be called to the stand by the veterans’ groups will include about a dozen legal and mental health experts, veterans’ representatives and government officials. Government defense witnesses at the trial will include seven other VA officials.

Conti is likely to take the case under submission at the end of the trial and issue a written ruling at a later date.

In previous hearings and rulings, the judge expressed concern over the extent of his authority over the VA’s budget. But he turned down a government bid for dismissal of the lawsuit without a trial, saying that “it is within the court’s power to insist that veterans be granted a level of due process.”

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Veterans’ claims of inadequate care go to trial
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  1. “Hidden Wound” “P.T.S.D.” I am a 1125 days Spec.Ops. Vietnam Veteran. I served 1965-1968. I returned plucked outa combat zone, No debriefing, and sent to “TREASURE ISLAND”. Was told there might be 30,000 people total in USA demonstrating against the Vietnam Conflict. If there were only 30,000 then they were all in San Francisco! Within 30 days I had choosen to leave the USA, I went to Canada and married a BritshColumbia gal. I “BUSH PIOLTED” for seven year till the War ceased. We divorced, Then CommonLaw with a second lady, she had our Son and choose to stay in B.C. Finally in 1978 I had decieded to settle down, I married a 20 year old and we were gonna settle, Our first 10 year I moved her and our Son and Daughter 50 times! In 1982 Vietnam Conflict was declared a “WAR”! I checked in a VA. in Lousiana where they diagnosed me “PTSD”, Suggested me to go to Tenneessee for my help cause my wife had family there. The wire lensed Sandal wearing lady Doctor told me to take 8 aspirin a day and don`t come back-“Regan-nomics”! Wanted nothing to do with the VA. then! TILL 1995 I recognized I needed HELP! My wife took me to VA. in Murfreesboro,Ten. and they weren`t gonna let me stay, Wife stood up and pointed her index finger inch from the “JORDANIAN” Doctors nose and proceeded to tell him the Military made me this way and he was gonna fix me! and she wasn`t gonna take me home till! 2 weeks later they screened me to enter the “Drug-Alchol Rehab. and told me alchol and drugs wasn`t my problem, Said I had P.T.S.D.! I thought it was a venerial desease! told the Marine Doctor I hadn`t been messing off on my wife, He chuckled; and told me to go thru Alchol-Drug program and he`d see to it that I entered the “PTSD” Clinic. I done as requested and on my first meeting they confirmed my PTSD and started working with me, from 1995 to 2000 they managed to add 20% PTSD to my 30% Sleep Disorder. I kept appealing, and When Slick Willy left the round house (lol) I started recieving 100% when PRESIDENT G.BUSH came to power. Within a year I recieved my “TOTAL-PERMENET 100% PTSD”! I am now a “MENTAL-HYGENE” Patient. They told me any “Life or Death” situation I was able to go to any Hospital for “Stableazation”. and they would pay the hospital. Yep that happened in an unfortunant accident. Broke neck 3 times, and severed all nerves in right shoulder cup. Erlanger whom works with VA. patients in Chattanooga did not submitt all bills to VA. nor me. The VA. covered a couple or so and then the Erlanger Hospital just sent bills to a collection agency! Now my credit rating is – 0! and meantime they are trying to force me to do their leg work and get the VA. to pay or me to pay! My wife done all that was required in calling the VA. and reporting as told to,. Meantime I`m harrassed by numerous calls, some with I.D. most none, and now when I ask to speak they just sit on the phone for a short time then hang up! At this time “ERLANGER HOSPITAL” is expecting a “MENTAL-HEALTH PATIENT” to getting their bills and papers to the VA. and VA is waiting for them to do their job. This whole situation keeps me on “Needles and Pins” Anexiety, Depression, Distrust, flashback accelerations, Nerves out the window and much more! I am fortunant I still have my 3rd. wife whom has been a backbone to some recovery. She and I are praying that “AMERICA WAKES UP TO P.T.S.D. and does a better and definetly speedier work with my fellow soldiers that are comming home to a “SERIOUS HIDDEN WOUND”! WAKE UP AMERICA THIS IS SERIOUS! and these men and women need your help NOW! They served our country and lots gave their life for our beliefs. and 120 suicides a week is 120 to many! “EDUCATION, PHSYCOLOGY HELP, AWARENESS TO PUBLIC, INEPT HOSPITALS NEED SERIOUS ADDRESSING TO THIS PROBLEM”! Now at age 60 I don`t forsee anyone straighting up my now NULL VOID CREDIT! thanks “Erlanger hospital Chattanooga”! Yes we served! Now were asking for HELP! Its real folks, FACT!