April 23, 2023

Veterans Deserve Better Healthcare

A May 10th ruling written by Judge Joseph Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco declared that the mental health care offered to veterans is so inadequate that it violates their constitutional rights. Prompt professional care is essential in dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress, one of the natural consequences of facing combat. Veterans place their lives on the line for their country and then return home to find the services they needed are either inadequate or unavailable.

Delays in treatment carry severe results, and those with severe conditions often wait too long to get the help and support they need, according to “Returning Veterans Encounter VA Mental Health Meltdown” by Azriel James Relph of NBC News. Many veterans can experience up to an 8-week delay in obtaining a mental health referral, and this is simply not a tolerable situation. There are currently over a million severely disabled veterans are awaiting a ruling on their disability claims.

Veterans cannot wait forever to get treatment and help. Too many end up with homes foreclosed, jobs lost, families in disarray, and hope gone. The suicide rate is appalling and is getting worse. Statistics show that about 18 veterans commit suicide every day. How many troops will have to be lost after they have returned from the battlefield before something is done?

When young American men and women sign up for military service, they receive a promise. They are told that if they are injured, they will receive prompt and adequate health care. They are told that if they are disabled, they will receive adequate support. They are told that their families will be taken care of. This is the promise that has been made. Unfortunately, however, service members often come home to find that the promise evaporates under the deluge of paperwork and delays, denials and dodges.

The ruling by Judge Reinhardt called for an immediate remedy of that situation, but an adequate response remains to be seen. Delay of treatment is not an option if the veteran is to survive, let alone prosper. Congress must act to see that veterans who have faced battle receive the prompt and appropriate care, as well as the benefits that they have earned.

Douglas Karr is a Navy veteran and an advocate for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, an online resource for patients and their families. To learn more, visit www.mesothelioma.com.