High Court Refuses to Hear Appeal of Class-Action Lawsuit Against VA

by U.S. Medicine

February 8, 2013

WASHINGTON — Ending more than five years of litigation on the issue, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling in a class-action lawsuit that claimed VA does not provide mental healthcare in a timely fashion.

At the beginning of January, the nation’s highest court said it would not review a decision by the full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which had held that it lacked jurisdiction to overhaul VA’s mental-health system, as requested in the lawsuit. Instead, it said in Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) vs. Eric K. Shinseki, that the responsibility falls to the executive branch and Congress.

Saying the case was “lost on a technicality,” the plaintiffs responded that, “VA remains mired in crisis, and veterans will continue fighting to reform VA so that no veteran waits for VA healthcare or benefits.”

In that statement, Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) also said, “We are deeply disappointed the court did not hear the urgent plea of suicidal veterans who face delays of months, and often years, seeking VA assistance.”

The statement cited “significant improvements” in some areas, such as a suicide hotline set up by VA, but said the crisis continues because of underfunding and lack of congressional oversight.

An earlier ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit in San Francisco had given plaintiffs hope, saying that veterans could look to the courts to seek relief from their claims that VA failed to provide adequate or timely care to veterans in need. The decision raised questions about the appropriate role of the three branches of the U.S. government, however, which were addressed by the full circuit court.

“VCS’s complaint sounds a plaintive cry for help, but it has been misdirected to us,” 9th Circuit Judge Jay Bybee wrote for the majority. “As much as we may wish for expeditious improvement in the way the VA handles mental healthcare and service-related disability compensation, we cannot exceed our jurisdiction to accomplish it.”

The advocacy groups VCS and Veterans United for Truth (VUFT) filed the lawsuit in 2007, claiming that delays in mental healthcare too often result in the suicide of the servicemember seeking help, which violates veterans’ rights to due process.


Related Articles

Bill to Streamline, Expand VA’s Choice Program Signed Into Law

Legislation that would streamline VA’s community care programs into one program and expand VA’s caregiver program to veterans of all eras was signed into law earlier this month..

Despite Criticism, VA Healthcare as Good or Better Than Other Systems

The good news from a recent consultant study is that, overall, the VA healthcare system is generally equal or better than others when inpatient and outpatient quality is measured.


U.S. Medicine Recommends


More From department of veterans affairs

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Bill to Streamline, Expand VA’s Choice Program Signed Into Law

Legislation that would streamline VA’s community care programs into one program and expand VA’s caregiver program to veterans of all eras was signed into law earlier this month..

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Despite Criticism, VA Healthcare as Good or Better Than Other Systems

The good news from a recent consultant study is that, overall, the VA healthcare system is generally equal or better than others when inpatient and outpatient quality is measured.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

VA Inks Contract for Massive New Health Record System

Calling it one of the largest IT contracts in the federal government, with a ceiling of $10 billion over a decade, then-VA Acting Secretary Robert Wilkie announced that the agency signed a contract with Cerner for its new electronic health record (EHR).

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Surprise! President Nominates Wilkie for Permanent VA Secretary

President Donald Trump said last month that acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie “has done an incredible job” and, in a surprise move, nominated him for the permanent Cabinet position.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Fibromyalgia Presents Differently in Male, Female Veterans

Research on fibromyalgia, a poorly understood, chronically disabling pain syndrome, generally has focused on its clinical presentation and treatment.

Facebook Comment

Subscribe to U.S. Medicine Print Magazine

U.S. Medicine is mailed free each month to physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and administrators working for Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense and U.S. Public Health Service.

Subscribe Now

Receive Our Email Newsletter

Stay informed about federal medical news, clinical updates and reports on government topics for the federal healthcare professional.

Sign Up