From the “Things That Are Being Neglected While Congress Remains Unable to Get Its Collective Head Unstuck from the Partisan Sand” desk: With one branch of the federal government having become completely dysfunctional, while the other is performing too many functions at once to take on however many more there are, veterans’ groups took to the third, the judicial one, for help. Unfortunately for them, that turns out to be the one branch that can’t help them.
The issue is veterans’ mental health care, which in its current state is being blamed for 6,500 annual suicides, or 18 daily ones. In Veterans for Common Sense et al v. Shinseki et al, two groups, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth, accused the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for acting unconstitutionally in neglecting to provide expedient mental health care. The 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals ruled 10-1 against these groups.
Here’s the quote from the text of the suit:
The Constitution affirms that the People have rights that are enforceable against the government. One such right is to be free from unjustified governmental deprivation of property – including the health care and benefits that our laws guarantee veterans upon completion of service.
That’s all we can say about the Constitution here; the rest of their argument concerns an assortment of case law affirming veterans’ right to health care. Unfortunately, they have not proven that they aren’t getting health care at all. They have only proven that whatever health care programs exist for veterans are inefficient and ineffective. Think of it this way: You stood in the grocery line for half an hour and all the produce was rotten. Would you be justified in accusing the store of starving you?
I realize that’s a crude comparison. But when you’re trying to establish a constitutional basis for this sort of thing, you have to prove that there are issues deeper than slowness and incompetence at work. As much as I would like to see a much more robust veterans’ mental health care program than exists now – as part of a three-pronged plan for veteran care, in which the two other prongs are employment and housing – the judiciary has no power to spur one on. If that wouldn’t be legislating from the bench, I don’t know what is.
Perhaps the two groups in this case were aware of that the entire time and just wanted to send a message to Congress to get its act together. You’d better join everyone else with a pet political cause in the big political grocery line if you want to do that.