Courts won’t intervene to speed veterans services

Samara Freemark
Reporter
Public Insight Network

A five year legal effort to address the long wait times veterans face for mental health services and disability benefits has come to an end.

In 2007, Veterans for Common Sense, a veterans advocacy group, filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs, seeking help from the courts to address the long wait times veterans face to access mental health services, and the VA’s backlog to process disability benefits claims.

The case wound through the court system, and in May, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the problem of wait times and back logs was in the hands of Congress and the VA, not the courts. Last Friday, the Supreme Court refused to revisit the case — leaving the 9th Circuit ruling to stand.

We’ve previously covered the disability backlog, PTSD, and the delays faced by veterans seeking mental health care here, here, and here.

Veterans for Common Sense issued a statement after the Supreme Court denial.

“VA remains mired in crisis, and veterans will continue fighting to reform VA so that no veteran waits for VA healthcare or benefits.  We are deeply disappointed the Court did not hear the urgent plea of suicidal veterans who face delays of months, and often years, seeking VA assistance.  Although significant improvements were made in some areas within VA, such as a suicide hotline set up after our lawsuit that rescued 23,000 distraught Veterans, the nation’s second largest department remains in deep crisis due to decades of underfunding and a lack of significant Congressional oversight of VA’s $140 billion per year budget.”

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Samara Freemark Reporter
Public Insight Network

Reporter/producer Samara Freemark joined the Public Insight Network after four years at Radio Diaries in New York City, where she spent her time helping ordinary people tell their extraordinary stories for NPR. In the process, she developed an unshakeable belief in the beauty and power of personal narrative.

Before Radio Diaries Samara worked as an environmental reporter, a posting that took her to sinking islands, Superfund sites, and literal snakepits – Burmese pythons, to be exact. She also churned out copy and tape in the newsroom of WUOM Ann Arbor. Before settling on a career in radio she tried out policy research, community organizing, and urban planning before deciding she preferred soundwaves to spreadsheets.