"Frustrated by delays in health care, a coalition of injured Iraq war veterans is accusing VA Secretary Jim Nicholson of breaking the law by denying them disability pay and mental health treatment.
The class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, filed Monday in federal court in San Francisco, seeks broad change in the agency as it struggles to meet growing demands from veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Suing on behalf of hundreds of thousands of veterans, it charges that the VA has failed warriors on several fronts — from providing prompt disability benefits, to adding staff to reduce wait times for medical care to boosting services for post-traumatic stress disorder.
The lawsuit also accuses the VA of deliberately cheating some veterans by allegedly working with the Pentagon to misclassify PTSD claims as pre-existing personality disorders to avoid paying out benefits. The VA and Pentagon have generally denied such charges.
The lawsuit comes amid intense political and public scrutiny of the VA and Pentagon following reports of shoddy outpatient care of injured soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and elsewhere.
Nicholson abruptly announced last week he would step down by Oct. 1 to return to the private sector. He has repeatedly defended the agency during his 2 1/2-year tenure while acknowledging there was room for improvement.
More recently, following high-profile suicide incidents in which families of veterans say the VA did not provide adequate care, Nicholson pledged to add mental health services and hire more suicide-prevention coordinators.
While steps can and will be taken in the political arena, responsibility for action lies with the agency itself," said Melissa W. Kasnitz, managing attorney for Disability Rights Advocates, in a telephone interview. Her group is teaming up with a major law firm, Morrison & Foerster, to represent the veterans.
"We don't believe the problems will be fixed by the VA if we wait for them," she said. "In the meantime, it is veterans who risk their lives for our country who are suffering the consequences.
EXACTLY!!! I am glad that FINALLY maybe some justice will be done. Suing the VA may not bring back dead soldiers, BUT it shows these BASTARDS that our HEROES & their families will no longer idly sit by while these fucking Bastards CONTINUE to give themselve's raises all the while DENYING our Troops the healthcare they need!!!! Nicholson, Shrub, Cheney, and the rest of the SELFISH Repugs who claim to "Support the Troops" should all go FUCK themselve's and shut the hell up, actions speak louder than words and theirs are more than clear!!!