IMMEDIATE RELEASE





Press Release

March 21, 2005

No. 05-004


Contact:
Mokie Porter

(301) 585-4000 Ext. 146
(301) 996-0901


VVA Disappointed in Outreach Litigation Decision,
but Efforts Will Continue

 

(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. 

“We are 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 added.  

The lawsuit 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.

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Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families.  VVA's founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

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