Sunday, April 20, 2008
What they were fighting for
Could it possibly be that the list of federal agencies failing during the Bush administration includes the Department of Veterans Affairs? Hopefully it isn't, for the sake of the tens of thousands of soldiers fighting overseas. But a lawsuit filed by military veterans who contend they were denied adequate medical care for injuries they suffered while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan claims precisely that. Trial begins tomorrow in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco. The lawsuit argues that the VA was overwhelmed by the number of post-traumatic stress disorder cases among soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and has resisting providing benefits. "Unless systemic and drastic measures are instituted immediately, the costs to these veterans, their families, and our nation will be incalculable, including broken families, a new generation of unemployed and homeless veterans, increases in drug abuse and alcoholism, and crushing burdens on the health care delivery system and other social services in our communities," the suit says, according to the Reuters international news agency. But the VA contends that its procedures for determining who gets benefits are sound. "[This} attempt to force VA to overhaul its entire benefits systems under penalty of contempt must fail," defense lawyers wrote last week in a court filing, according to Reuters. "The specific remedies sought by plaintiffs are not within this Court's authority to grant." Trial is expected to continue through May.