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Feb-07-2008 12:01printcomments

Bush Lawyers Fight Tooth and Nail to Deny VA Healthcare Benefits

Veterans not "entitled" to mental health care, U.S. lawyers argue

President George W. Bush
President George W. Bush
Photo courtesy: VFW

(SALEM, Ore.) - President Bush says veterans have no legal right to specific types of medical care. The information is coming from documents related to a civil lawsuit filed by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war who claim the government is illegally denying mental health treatment to some troops.

The arguments, filed Wednesday in a San Francisco federal court, "strike at the heart of a lawsuit filed on behalf of veterans that claims the health care system for returning troops provides little recourse when the government rejects their medical claims," the San Francisco Chronicle reported today.

Justice Department lawyers countered the accusations, claiming that the Veterans Affairs administration is working to increase staffing and screening veterans for combat-related stress.

But that isn't their main point.

What they really have to say about it is that their agency, and not Congress, will decide which veterans should get health care and they reserve the right to cut people off if they elect to do so internally. They contend that the discretion is purely theirs, not veterans or the courts.

Veterans are fuming over the announcement and over the fact that the commander in chief loves to commend the troops for their efforts while in reality, denying them the most basic rights when it comes to healthcare.

In fact, government lawyers compare some veterans' desires to attain healthcare to a desire for an "entitlement" and most veterans scoff at the notion that expecting the government to care for the health problems that the government itself created would be viewed as an entitlement rather than as a simple right of decency.

Justice Department lawyers say a federal law that provides five years of care for veterans from the date of their discharge establishes eligibility for a veteran to receive health care, "but it does not create an entitlement to any particular medical service," government lawyers said.

The lawyers say the law only authorizes veterans "medical care which the secretary (of Veterans Affairs) determines is needed, and only to the extent funds ... are available."

One lawyer represneting these veterans, Gordon Erspamer, says the suit is a proposed class action on behalf of 320,000 to 800,000 veterans or their survivors. He sued the government in July.

"Veterans need to know in this country that the government thinks all their benefits are mere gratuities," attorney Gordon Erspamer said. "They're saying it's completely discretionary, that even if Congress appropriates money for veterans' health care, we can do anything we want with it."

The matter will come up again on March 7th at a hearing before U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti. This is the same judge who denied the Bush Administration's request last month to dismiss the suit.

The case is still up in the air, but the plaintiffs are not hesitating in asking Conti to order the government to provide immediate mental health treatment for veterans who say they are thinking of killing themselves and to spend another $60 million on health care.

In the lawsuit, the VA is accused of arbitrarily denying care and benefits to wounded veterans, of forcing them to wait months for treatment and years for benefits, and of failing to provide fair procedures for appealing decisions against them.

The plaintiffs reference the department's backlog of over 600,000 disability claims and cited the fact that 120 veterans a week commit suicide.

Conti ruled January 10th that federal law entitles veterans to health care for a specific period after leaving the service. He rejected the government's argument that it was required to provide only as much care as the VA's budget allowed in a given year.

A law that President Bush signed last week extended the period from two to five years.

In its latest filing, however, the Justice Department reiterated that Congress had intended "to authorize, but not require, medical care for veterans."

"This court should not interfere with the political branches' design, oversight and modification of VA programs," the government lawyers argued.

They also said the VA "is making great progress in addressing the mental health care needs of combat veterans." Among other things, they cited a law passed in November that required the department to establish a suicide-prevention program that includes making mental health care available around the clock.

In their own defense, the attorneys for the VA argues that they have hired nearly 3,800 mental health professionals over the last two years and has at least one specialist in post-traumatic stress disorder at each of its medical centers, the government said. They did not comment on the public pressure that has led to those increased numbers.

They say the VA implemented a policy in June stating that all veterans who seek or are referred for mental health care should be screened within 24 hours, that those found to be at risk of suicide should be treated immediately, and that others should be scheduled for full diagnosis and treatment planning within two weeks.

The attorneys also touted a new suicide-prevention hot line that they say has led to "more than 380 rescues."

But the lawyer for the military veterans who seek healthcare says he was not impressed.

"Nowhere do I see any explanation of what kind of systems they have in place that deal with suicidal veterans," he said.

"There's no excuse for not spending the money Congress told them to spend on mental health care and leaving $60 million on the table when people are going out and killing themselves."

Special thanks to Bob Egelko and the San Francisco Chronicle for information contained in this article.

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Jefferson February 11, 2008 11:59 am (Pacific time)

People just in case you do not have the time to review what some of Chomsky's critics have to say, below are a few brief snapshots: Note: Why would anyone defend this guy? Unless of course they were a sympathizer? Who knows? Noam Chomsky's Anti-American Obsession by David Horowitz, a former prominent supporter of Marxism and one-time editor of the '60s New Left journal Ramparts, accuses Chomsky of being an ANTI-AMEMICAN IDEOLOGUE who sees the United States as evil and rewrites American history accordingly. Horowitz claims that Chomsky is the intellectual source of "LEFT WING ANTI-AMERICANISM TODAY". A Corrupted Linguistics by Robert D. Levine and Paul M. Postal, "BOTH PROFESSORS OF LINGUISTICS", claims that Chomsky's linguistic work has been largely superseded or abandoned. They also accuse Chomsky of INTELLECTUAL MISCONDUCT in his linguistic writings. Chomsky, Language, World War II and Me by John Williamson criticizes Chomsky's linguistic work and recounts a long email debate between Chomsky and the author in which Williamson claims CHOMSKY REPEATEDLY LIED about his own statements and about historical facts and sources.

Jefferson February 10, 2008 6:12 pm (Pacific time)

Staying on topic as per my below [3:52 PM post], let's hope this election cycle we can get some candidates from both party's to make strong commitments that they will strive to get the funding so our VA system, and the veterans they serve, get the very best America can provide (and then some!). We've been shortchanging our men/women for around 40 plus years. Send correspondence to your senators and congressional representatives to get them on record on how they will pursue necessary funding. Especially get the presidential candidates to go on record, then we can hold their feet to the fire if they flip-flop on our veterans if and when elected. Though I think Sen. McCain will do the right thing if elected. But I'll tell you one thing people, and I would wager some prime acreage of mine, that not one of these people running for office would tell you what a great American Chomsky is, or how they model their thinking on this "admitted" liberal "socialist" and paradoxically, an anarchist. LOL. But many people out there just don't do the research to find out what this "anti-veteran" is all about. The reason I initially even dropped his name below is because going back to my first war/conflict (Vietnam, SE Asia, Dominican Republic), Mr. Chomsky sure was on record as no friend of democracy, just the opposite. Like he was applauding those who ended killing millions after we pulled out. For a brief review on this anti-democrat liberal socialist (and it's not usual for well-meaning people to support him, they just don't seem to understand what he's about, at least I hope that's the case!) go to: It just takes a brief time for clear-thinkers to get this guy...

Henry Ruark February 10, 2008 4:11 pm (Pacific time)

To all: Neighboring comment is a prime example of demeaning language intended to kill off any realities by flood of feeling from personal animosities, while avoiding any semblance of rational and reasonable relation to facts involved either in the story or other comments on file. IF such quotes exist, your demeaning use demands citation of source for any belief, rather than simple statement open to any and every kind of distortion and perversion merely to manipulate another political smear-job. Such pilfered palaver without due source when requested tells you much about the here is definite request to source the words you attribute to each person named in this comment. NOT to do so proves up perverse and psychologically peculiar attempt to smear and synthesize bad feeling simply to promote personal political persuasion. Professionalism as opinion source at stake here demands you produce source and share it with those to whom you addressed this "dirty dig" Comment. "See with own eyes" is way to go; simply cite source, as done by others here, and let us then evaluate what we find with our own minds, when we pursue what you now must supply, if not to lose any possible credibility and accountability here. "Retaliation" as reason for continued failure to supply responsible, accountable ID, confidentially to Editor if warranted, is farcical on its face and no longer suffices as reasonable retreat from the accepted rule stated by management for ID on request when indicated by continued comments demanding common responsibility and its accompaniment, reasonable accountability.

Henry Ruark February 10, 2008 10:12 am (Pacific time)

To all: To me it seems very much hypocritical for ANYone to speak demeaningly of Chomsky, when that person refused ID on own stuff. Chomsky unhesitatingly signs his, and they are fully open to the most penetrating kind and format of professional examination, exploration and criticism from well-prepared other professionals. That surely differs from the cheap-easy/shot format here with sniper firing from own partial concealment designed to prevent participants from the societal compact agreement for conversational commerce built on mutual knowledge of each other's principles, precepts and even pretentions. My mother warned me sharply about any possible connection with all mysterious old men seeking any kind of semi-intimate contact, as in close conversation or dialog.

Henry Ruark February 9, 2008 4:34 pm (Pacific time)

Packwood fooled a few, too, for a much longer time, and on much deeper and desperate actions. For those who do NOT now remember, check out the facts in this one, and be not only dismayed by what you will find re those who raised money for the Big P. but also continue to use his name as if it had not been tied to the titanic fallout which finally swept him into the garbage pit. Oregon media were much to blame for most of that mess, and easy check-back via Internet will show what and why it is that u-no-who writes as shown here. History always provides true guidance for those who know it, and for any who will but seek it out. It will, like liberty, also free one, on the same solid basis of demanding that it be both recognized and appreciated by those seeking the solace that comes only from freedom. Like waterboarding, it also displays definite detail re character, for what that may be worth at any time to any citizen seeking trustworthy, responsible, accountable guidance --surely not reflected by refusal to be known as in any ordinary conversation.

Jefferson February 9, 2008 3:52 pm (Pacific time)

It always amazes me how uninformed people always blame [certain] political party's for the woes at the VA. It has been underfunded for decades, regardless of which party is in power. Though from my personal observation it was LBJ who was the one who began the pattern of hurting the system via his incredible incompetence. Note: With the huge built up in Vietnam and the casualties, LBJ's administration and that current congress failed big time, big time!) Every presidential election cycle all these promises are made but nothing ever gets funded. This may be interesting for some: It appears that Rep. Peter King (Rep. NY) with Sen. John Kerry and believe it or not, Bill O'Reilly of the FOX Network are joining forces to bring pressure on congress to more or less have a paradigm shift in securing appropriate "permanent" funding for our veterans. I must admit from John Kerry's background in demonizing our veterans going back nearly 40 years I can only imagine he is simply pursuing an agenda of self-aggrandizment, e.g. , his and the left's recent evaluation on our veterans: "Those on the left will never accept that the finest young Americans are those who risk their lives defending freedom. Sen. John Kerry summed up the views of the left perfectly when he disparaged our troops "as too stupid to do anything but sling hamburgers." " What a guy! 40 years of demeaning our war veterans! And The New York Times, and others who hate our military will never forgive our men and women in uniform for their infuriating successes!

Jefferson February 9, 2008 3:37 pm (Pacific time)

Chomsky easily fools a variety of types, and so did Mao, as did Marx, as did Wayne Morse(Oregon voters sure kicked him out! Big time!), etc. . Then "Eureaka", clarity comes to clear-thinking objective people and those individuals like above are put in the light to slowly (quickly in some cases) evaporate into meaninglessness. They always have their defenders though, and WC Fields pointed that population out in a mirthful, but accurate way...LOL. I find that the higher one's IQ, the quicker they detect charlatans, and these high IQ people are not the "gullible" readers of publications like the NY Times, Wash. Post, Boston Globe, Seattle Intelligencer, ad nauseum. P.S. See the below quote by Chomsky (12:30 pm post) and you get what he's all about...not someone who likes objective reviews of facts?

Henry Ruark February 9, 2008 2:28 pm (Pacific time)

To all: U quoting Chomsky is like Mao reading the Bible...with about the same credence for the reader. Chomsky it is who proposes a peculiar kind of perverted mentality and thus personality for those who distort reality purposefully, intending to conmmunicate the very opposite of what reality reflects.

Jefferson February 9, 2008 12:30 pm (Pacific time)

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” –Noam Chomsky, American linguist and U.S. media and foreign policy critic.

Henry Ruark February 9, 2008 10:47 am (Pacific time)

Matt et al: You wrote:"How about reporting facts next time instead of injecting your obviously very partisan opinions." Story tells it precisely like it is: Government agency is denying "entitlement". We must assume that action reflects Bush attitude since he controls the agencies as essential components of his ostensible "administration". That is so clear that it prompted my first Comment on "consummate compassionate conservatism" --reflecting the commonsense of plain English here. One can hardly deny the President is personally and politically responsible for what his cohorts in the agencies he controls do and try to do, notoriously in this "administration" flying right into the face of Congressional intent and action. So your statement is in error; this is observable, widely reported fact, not a "very partisan" opinion by our esteemed Editor, not about to be caught in such dereliction of journalistic integrity.

DD877 February 8, 2008 3:03 pm (Pacific time)

US Veterans are entitled to all medical benefits Because they Served. Neither Party is Clean when it comes to honoring Veterans. A Pox on both Houses

Matt February 8, 2008 12:46 pm (Pacific time)

Show me in this article where the following statement "President Bush says veterans have no legal right to specific types of medical care." is supported. What you did say was that Bush extended veterans medical benefits an extra 3 years, but the only people I can see in your article that says benefits shouldn't be awarded is a Justice Dept Bureaucrat. Just as in every federal dept, the Justice Department has career minions who's job is to go out and protect other government departments. The VA has been screwed up under every president in history. The wheels of government turn very slowly and bureaucratic organizations like the VA don not change their stances because of new political leaders. How about reporting facts next time instead of injecting your obviously very partisan opinions. By the way, I am a veteran, I don't like the VA, and I have not seen one iota of change in them in the last 4 presidents.

Henry Ruark February 7, 2008 1:34 pm (Pacific time)

To all: One might properly describe this drive to kill entitlement as "consummate compassionate conservatism".

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