According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 18 veterans take their own lives every day. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in response to this horrific statistic has ordered the Department of Veterans Affairs to make radical changes in its mental healthcare system.
The Court highlighted not only that the VA takes 4 years to provide veterans with the full extent of their earned benefits, but that the VA essentially shames itself in making suicidal veterans wait weeks for a first appointment.
The Court referred to the VA’s handling of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mental health claims as “unchecked incompetence.” They also declared their handling of such claims to be unconstitutional, which is a direct result of the government failing to perform its duties owed to veterans.
According to the Court, if the VA is going to offer mental healthcare to veterans, they cannot at the same time essentially deprive them of those benefits through seemingly endless and immutable delays.
The Court cited a report concluding 1 in 3 soldiers returning from Middle East deployments turned to the VA for mental health conditions, to include PTSD. The study went on to claim approximately 300,000 soldiers suffer from either PTSD or depression on a significant level.
In reviewing the VA’s overall actions toward veterans, the Court concluded the VA fails in its owed duty to the country’s veterans in providing appropriately timed mental healthcare.
According to the Court, those delays have only gotten worse in recent years. This at a most inopportune time as the amount of returning veterans in need of mental health help has increased significantly, overwhelming the VA system.
The Court spent much of their time focusing on the amount of time veterans in need must wait for their first appointment. Those delays turn out to be fatal for many veterans.
Finally, the Court sent the case back to the trial court with orders for the VA to work toward building a new mental healthcare plan, which will include a faster processing time for appointments and appeals.
If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.