Obama signs bill overhauling Veterans Affairs Department

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official website] on Thursday signed [press release] the Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act of 2014 [text] to allow veterans to seek private care outside the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) [official website] facilities and provide money for the VA to hire more doctors and nurses. The legislation comes after a a scandal [The Hill report] finding that veterans waited an average of 115 days after an initial doctor's appointment, though officials denied such wait times. The bill seeks to ensure timely care for veterans and also provide accountability within the VA.

The VA is tasked with providing federal benefits and health care to US veterans, though mismanagement and lack of resources has limited its ability to do so. In March five veterans of the Vietnam War filed a class action lawsuit [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the District of Connecticut [official website] accusing the military of failing to upgrade the discharges of veterans who developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The issue of upgrade petitions for Vietnam veterans with PTSD has been ongoing. In 2012 students of the Yale Veterans Clinic filed another class action lawsuit in federal court dealing with discharge upgrades for PTSD. However, the lead plaintiff ultimately signed a settlement agreement [text, PDF] with the Army granting him the discharge upgrade before a class was certified, prompting the current class action suit. US Senator Richard Blumenthal [official website] of Connecticut held a press conference at Yale Law School where he indicated his support [New Haven Register report] for the plaintiffs and stated that the "veterans are long overdue present day appreciation of modern mental health in the timely review of their discharge upgrade appeals."

 

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