(Washington, D.C.) – "Within the past week, a federal appeals court issued a scathing opinion of the VA's mental-health system, noting that it takes an average of four years [emphasis added] for veterans to receive mental-health benefits," said John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). "This is a beleaguered process that demands immediate reform."
In the ruling of a three-judge panel, Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit Appeals Court in Pasadena, California, wrote, "Veterans should [not] be compelled to agonize or perish while the government fails to fulfill its obligations...
"Although the VA is obligated to provide veterans mental-health services, many veterans with severe depression or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are forced to wait weeks for mental health referrals...For those who commit suicide in the interim, care does not come soon enough."
"We could not agree more with Judge Reinhardt," Rowan said. "Despite what excuses have been proffered by the VA and DoD, we maintain that veterans in need deserve better. While the VA and the Department of Defense have delayed for years on the so-called 'seamless transition' from active duty to veteran status, far too many veterans have fallen through the cracks – or rather the gaping holes – in the system that is supposed to help them.
"Even staunch defenders of the Pentagon are displeased with the treatment afforded our veterans," Rowan added. After the hearing on the Federal Recovery Coordination Program last week, the chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Health of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee decried thedisservice to our wounded warriors and their families who are getting lost between two large bureaucracies.
"It's about time we work in concert to fix the system," Rowan said. "It's about time for the VA and DoD to stop guarding their fiefdoms and making excuses."