Appeals Court Orders VA to Improve Mental Health System

From the Associated Press:

In the strongly worded ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it takes the department an average of four years to fully provide the mental health benefits owed veterans.

The court also said it often takes weeks for a suicidal vet to get a first appointment.

“No more veterans should be compelled to agonize or perish while the government fails to perform its obligations,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote for the three-judge panel. “Having chosen to honor and provide for our veterans by guaranteeing them the mental health care and other critical benefits to which they are entitled, the government may not deprive them of that support through unchallengeable and interminable delays.”

The court said a 2007 report by the Office of the Inspector General found significant delays in timely referrals from VA doctors for treatment of PTSD and depression. Fewer than half of the patients received same-day mental evaluations while others had to wait as long as two months for a counseling session. [all emphasis mine]

I sincerely hope that the Department of Veterans Affairs remedies this situation soon. This strikes a nerve with me, as I have been in therapy and on medication for depression for almost two years; near the beginning of my illness, I was seriously contemplating suicide, and I am honestly not sure if I would have survived without getting help. I can’t imagine what would have happened if I had had to wait two months for an initial therapy appointment.

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