(Washington, D.C.) –
In a recent decision, the U.S.
District Court for the District of Columbia refused to dismiss a lawsuit
brought by Congressman Ted Strickland (D-OH) and Vietnam Veterans of America
to require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to comply with its legal
mandate to provide outreach to educate veterans about VA health care and
other services. Nevertheless, the Court granted the Government’s motion for
summary judgment, essentially finding that although Congress has imposed a
non-discretionary obligation on the VA to conduct outreach, the agency has
the discretion to decide how to do so and how much it will do.
disappointed with the Court’s decision and are considering how best to
proceed. However, we are heartened by the Court’s recognition that the VA
cannot stop all VA outreach on a whim as a means to hoard its financial
resources,” said VVA’s national president, Thomas H. Corey. “Denying
veterans information about VA health care and disability benefits is
tantamount to unlawfully denying them those services and benefits,” Corey
was filed in response to a 2002 memorandum from VA management to VA health
care system managers to cease all “marketing” activities geared toward
increasing enrollment in the VA’s health care system. “Although the VA has
argued that there is a difference between ‘marketing’ and ‘outreach’, there
is no practical distinction in our view. When essential information is
deliberately and willfully withheld, veterans and their families are hurt,
no matter what you call it,” Corey said.
VVA, Congressman Strickland,
and attorneys from the Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for
Public Representation are reviewing the Court’s decision and are considering
options for an appeal. “VVA will also be working closely with the
Congressman and other members of the House and the Senate, to ensure that
the VA will resume a level of outreach that not only satisfies its legal
obligations, but also will effectively reach those veterans who have
suffered disabilities and illnesses due to their military service, but may
not know it,” Corey pledged.