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Federal Judge Allows Major Class Action Lawsuit Against the VA

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A federal court in San Francisco has cleared the way for a major national class action lawsuit on behalf of veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The VA had sought to dismiss the lawsuit claiming that the groups bringing the suit, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth, were simply "advocacy organizations" and did not have standing to sue on behalf of the estimated 320,000 to 800,000 service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with cases of PTSD.

The complaint, filed in federal court in July, sought a Judge's order finding that VA's system of handling disability claims and appeals is so dysfunctional that it violates veterans' constitutional and statutory rights. The suit also calls for court orders requiring VA to provide immediate medical and psychological help to returning troops and to screen them for risk of suicide.

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The VA now has a backlog of over 600,000 applications for claims, and a decision on a claim can take up to twelve years to be processed through appeals. According to data obtained in November by McClatchy Newspapers, veterans must wait an average of 183 days for a claim to be decided.

In his 42 page ruling allowing the class action suit to go forward, U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Conti wrote the federal system for weighing individual veterans' claims "does not provide an adequate alternative remedy for Plaintiffs' claims for several reasons.

The Judge's ruling means the class action lawsuit against VA will move forward, with the first court hearing scheduled for next month.

Did You Know?

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   Male U.S. veterans are more than twice as likely to die by suicide than people with no military service.

How well do you know your facts about U.S. veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan? Take the War Comes Home "Did You Know?" Quiz and find out!

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Pacifica radio network reporter Aaron Glantz is author of the new book "How America Lost Iraq" (Tarcher/Penguin). More information at www.warcomeshome.org

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