Friday, May 2, 2008

Vets Await Verdict in Class Action Lawsuit

Aaron Glantz, North America Inter Press Service

SAN FRANCISCO, 2 May (IPS) - Arturo Gonzalez delivered his closing arguments inside a packed courtroom on the 17th floor of the Federal Building in downtown San Francisco.

A partner at the gigantic corporate law firm Morrison and Forrester, he's part of a team of lawyers seeking to force the Department of Veterans' Affairs to provide better health care and more timely disability benefits to returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

The case, officially known as Veterans for Common Sense vs. Peake, represents the first class action lawsuit brought on behalf of the 1.7 million U.S. citizens who served in the war zones. Veterans say that over the last six years, the George W. Bush administration has systematically denied veterans the health care they were promised and that they went to court as a last resort.

'We are here because veterans are committing suicide at an alarming rate,' Gonzalez told U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Conti, citing government documents that show 18 U.S. war veterans kill themselves every day. 'More of these veterans are dying in the United States than in combat. That's wrong.'

'There is only one person on Earth who can do anything to help these men and women,' he told the judge, 'Your honour, these veterans need help. The VA has demonstrated that they won't do it on their own.' Read On

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