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Veterans groups sue VA for post-traumatic stress treatment failures

[JURIST] Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth [advocacy website] filed a class action lawsuit Monday against the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) [official website] on behalf of approximately 320,000 to 800,000 veterans of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) [backgrounder], alleging that the VA is denying adequate procedural safeguards [complaint, PDF; factsheet, DOC] in the VA benefits process. The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, also accuses the VA of denying mandated medical care and VA benefits to veterans afflicted with PTSD. The complaint alleges:

The system for deciding VA claims has largely collapsed. The VA claims adjudication system is currently mired in processing a backlog of over 600,000 claims, many of which have been pending for years. The time period for a claim to be fully decided can exceed ten years. By comparison, the private sector health care industry processes thirty-billion claims annually in an average of 89.5 days per claim, including the time required to resolve disputed claims. The VA's process for pursuing a claim is not merely arbitrary and ineffective. The delays have become an insurmountable barrier preventing many veterans from obtaining health care and benefits. Many wounded veterans, particularly those with combat-caused mental illnesses, give up in frustration and despair or die while their claims are pending. In these cases, just delayed is justice denied.
The groups also allege that higher-level VA officials have exerted pressure on local officials to deny claims, intentionally underestimate the severity of veterans' disabilities to save money, or even misdiagnose PTSD as non-combat-related personality disorders to avoid paying benefits.

The plaintiffs, who are not seeking damages from the VA, are seeking declaratory and injunctive relief under the 1973 Rehabilitation Act [text]. AP has more. IPS has additional coverage.

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