Tuesday, 14 June 2011

VA Lets down Vets with Mental Health Conditions

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ notorious inefficiencies have meant that veterans returning home from battle zones with severe post traumatic stress disorder and other mental conditions don't have access to the kind of professional mental services they need.

By some estimates, the veteran death toll from suicides is much greater than the toll from combat. However, gross inefficiencies, delays, and red tape deny vets the kind of mental health assistance they need.

In May, a federal appeals court judge ordered the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to undertake a complete overhaul of its mental health care system. The judge accused the Department of Veterans’ Affairs of incompetence, saying that the agency was violating vets’ constitutional rights of free health care benefits. The lawsuit had been filed by veterans groups that argued that that there are systemic delays in evaluating and treating vets returning from combat zones with mental health problems.

VA disability benefit lawyers have come across several cases involving veterans who did not receive the mental health care they needed, with tragic results. Many of these cases have ended in suicide. A service member returning from a battle zone is very likely suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition characterized by anxiety and depression.

When a veteran seeks help from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, he's introduced to a long and cumbersome process before his mental healthcare referral is approved. In some cases, vets have had to wait for months before they received a referral, and these delays have been critical for their health.

According to VA statistics, approximately 18 veterans commit suicide every day. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has been aware of these horrible statistics, but has not streamlined the process of approving veterans' disability benefits.