Disabled National Veterans Foundation Expressed Concern Over Court Ruling Addressing Delays in Treatment for Veterans with Mental Health Illnesses

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The Disabled Veterans National Foundation(DVNF), a non-profit organization that exists to help men and women who come home with emotional and physical wounds after serving our country, is expressing concern to national leaders about a court ruling that releases the government from addressing long delays for veterans seeking treatment for combat-related mental health care illnesses.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on May 7th reversed a ruling that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs must overhaul how it cares for those veterans (case No. 08-16728). That ruling came a year ago in a district court, after non-profit groups who meet the needs of veterans with depression, PTSD and other mental disorders contended that the VA contributed to the despair that led to roughly 6,500 suicides a year by U.S. veterans.

“The appeals court ruling is disheartening,” said Raegan Rivers, Chief Administrative Officer of DVNF. “Our organization provides assistance to veterans who are suffering from emotional and psychological disorders as a result of their military service, and we cannot state strongly enough that when these selfless heroes seek treatment, it must be provided to them as quickly as possible.”

DVNF advocates tirelessly on behalf of veterans disabled by such mental illnesses as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and works with employers to hire veterans with “invisible injuries.”

A district court had ruled in May 2011 that the VA's treatment delays in handling post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health claims, often causing benefits to be delayed for up to four years, reflected "unchecked incompetence. The groups that brought the case claimed the VA's failure to provide timely treatment was a factor behind a high suicide rate among veterans. The VA has estimated that 18 veterans commit suicide every day.

The earlier court ruling would have required the VA to implement safeguards to guarantee timely and, when necessary, immediate mental health care. But Judge Jay Bybee, writing for the majority in overturning the decision, said the court does not have the jurisdiction to oversee the operation of the VA.

Judge Mary Schroeder dissented from the appeals court decision. She wrote that the ruling "leaves millions of veterans - present, past, and future - without any available redress for claims that they face years of delay in having their rights to hard-earned benefits determined.”

River agrees: “Any and all medical conditions suffered by our veterans should be addressed immediately, but to delay treatment for mental illness is unacceptable.”

About Disabled Veterans National Foundation:
DVNF exists to change the lives of men and women who came home wounded or sick after defending our safety and freedom. A non-profit 501(c)(3), DVNF was founded in the fall of 2007 by six women veterans to expand their scope of work within the veteran's community. For more information, visit http://www.dvnf.org.

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Raegan Rivers, Chief Administrative Officer
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