Injured Iraq war veterans sue VA head

By HOPE YEN, Associated Press Writer 10 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - Frustrated by delays in health care, injured Iraq war veterans accused VA Secretary Jim Nicholson in a lawsuit of breaking the law by denying them disability pay and mental health treatment.

The lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, filed Monday in federal court in San Francisco, seeks broad changes in the agency as it struggles to meet growing demands from veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Suing on behalf of hundreds of thousands of veterans, it charges that the VA has failed warriors on numerous fronts. It contends the VA failed to provide prompt disability benefits, failed to add staff to reduce wait times for medical care and failed to boost services for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The lawsuit also accuses the VA of deliberately cheating some veterans by allegedly working with the Pentagon to misclassify PTSD claims as pre-existing personality disorders to avoid paying benefits. The VA and Pentagon have generally denied such charges.

"When one of our combat veterans walks into a VA hospital, then they must see a doctor that day," said Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, which filed the lawsuit. "When a war veteran needs disability benefits because he or she can't work, then they must get a disability check in a few weeks."

"The VA has betrayed our veterans," Sullivan said.

VA spokesman Matt Smith said Monday he could not comment on a pending lawsuit
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