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Veterans: "Epidemic Of Suicides" Going Ignored / Lawsuit: Veterans Affairs has failed to prevent...
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in America's Veterans
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High Level New Jersey State Ethics Official Mocks PTSD Disability.
New Jersey Supreme Court Closes Its Eyes To This Disgrace.
 
 
 
----- Original Message -----
 

KTVU.com

Veterans: "Epidemic Of Suicides" Going Ignored

UPDATED: 2:26 pm PDT April 19, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO -- 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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High Level New Jersey Statecs Official Mocks PTSD Disability.
New Jersey Supreme Court Closes Its Eyes To This Disgrace.
 
-- Original Message -----
Subject: Lawsuit: Veterans Affairs has failed to prevent suicides

Lawsuit: Veterans Affairs has failed to prevent suicides

By PAUL ELIAS,
Associated Press
Posted: 2008-04-20 05:50:33
 
 
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs isn't doing enough to prevent suicide and provide adequate medical care for Americans who have served in the armed forces, a class-action lawsuit that goes to trial this week charges.

The lawsuit, filed in July by two nonprofit groups representing military veterans, accuses the agency of inadequately addressing a "rising tide" of mental health problems, especially post-traumatic stress disorder.

But government lawyers say the VA has been devoting more resources to mental health and making suicide prevention a top priority. They also argue that the courts don't have the authority to tell the department how it should operate.

The trial is set to begin Monday in a San Francisco federal court.

An average of 18 military veterans kill themselves each day, and five of them are under VA care when they commit suicide, according to a December e-mail between top VA officials that was filed as part of the federal lawsuit.

"That failure to provide care is manifesting itself in an epidemic of suicides," the veterans groups wrote in court papers filed Thursday.

A study released this week by the RAND Corp. estimates that 300,000 U.S. troops - about 20 percent of those deployed - are suffering from depression or post-traumatic stress from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We find that the VA has simply not devoted enough resources," said Gordon Erspamer, the lawyer representing the veterans groups. "They don't have enough psychiatrists."

The lawsuit also alleges that the VA takes too long to pay disability claims and that its internal appellate process unconstitutionally denies veterans their right to take their complaints to court.

The groups are asking U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Conti, a World War II U.S. Army veteran, to order the VA to drastically overhaul its system. Conti is hearing the trial without a jury.

"What I would like to see from the VA is that they actually treat patients with respect," said Bob Handy, head of the Veterans United for Truth, one of the groups suing the agency.

Handy, 76, who retired from the Navy in 1970, said he founded the veterans group in 2004 after hearing myriad complaints from veterans about their treatment at the VA when he was a member of the Veterans Caucus of the state Democratic Party. The department acknowledges in court papers that it takes on average about 180 days to decide whether to approve a disability claim.

"I would just like to see the VA do the honorable thing," said Handy, who is expected to testify during the weeklong trial.

Justice Department spokeswoman Carrie Nelson declined comment Friday.

But government lawyers have filed court papers arguing that the courts have no authority to tell the VA how to operate and no business wading into the everyday management of a sprawling medical network that includes 153 medical centers nationwide.

The veterans are asking the judge "to administer the programs of the second largest Cabinet-level agency, a task for which Congress and the executive branch are better suited," government lawyers wrote in court papers.

If the judge ordered an overhaul, he would be responsible for such things as employees workloads, hours of operations, facility locations, the number of medical professionals employed, and "even the decision whether to offer individual or group therapy to patients with" post-traumatic stress, the papers said.

The VA also said it is besieged with an unprecedented number of claims, which have grown from 675,000 in 2001 to 838,000 in 2007. The rise is prompted not from the current war, but from veterans growing older, government lawyers said.

"The largest component of these new claims is the aging veteran population of the Vietnam and Cold War eras," the government filing stated. "As they age, older veterans may lose employment-related health care, prompting them to seek VA benefits for the first time."

Government lawyers in their filings defended its average claims processing time as "reasonable," given that it has to prove the veterans disability was incurred during service time.

They also noted the VA will spend $3.8 billion for fiscal year 2008 on mental health and announced a policy in June that requires all medical centers to have mental health staff available all the time to provide urgent care. They said that "suicide prevention is a singular priority for the VA."

The VA "has hired over 3,700 new mental health professionals in the last two and a half years, bringing the total number of mental health professionals within VA to just under 17,000. This hiring effort continues," they said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.
04/20/2008 05:32 ET
 
Jere Beery 
 
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High Level New Jersey State Ethics Official Mocks PTSD Disability.
New Jersey Supreme Court Closes Its Eyes To This Disgrace.
"A man good enough to shed his blood for his country, is good enough to receive a square deal afterwards . . ."
-- Theodore Roosevelt
 
"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation."
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For an Update on this brave, Marine's story, please press the below picture.

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder--the ripple effect can be far reaching...   http://www.capveterans.com/americans_who_support_ptsd_veterans/id54.html

Read some experiences of an United States CAP Marine, who lived (24/7) with seven other Marines, in a peasant village.   The Duc Duc Refugee Village had about 2,000 homes.   (Where any villager could be a terrorist.)   http://www.CapVeterans.com
      The Marine Corps' Combined Action Program (CAP) was nicknamed  "The 'Peace Corps' Volunteers With Rifles."
 

 


~ WHY DO THESE TWO MARINES LOOK DRUNK... ~
Please press the below picture to link to the story.
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  Webmaster: Jack Cunningham (19) and George Dros (18)
The Duc Duc Refugee Village, Vietnam
August 1970
(The picture was taken seven months, before the two-thousand-home refugee village was burned to ashes.   Hundreds of civilians were killed, wounded and reported missing.)