I understand deadlines. I’m a journalist. I was once suspended without pay for missing 6 p.m. by less than 15 seconds.
In that situation, it was the anchor who looked bad because I didn’t get my story done on time. In my news director’s mind, this was about the worst sin I could commit — right up there with an error of fact. I was mad and humiliated but otherwise unscathed. No one lost a home or medical benefits because of my mistake.
Unfortunately, the court system is holding disabled veterans and everyone else to a much stricter standard, according to the New York Times. A Supreme Court ruling set a precedent that no matter the extenuating circumstances or the medical/mental condition of the people involved, deadlines must be met. That means lawyers for David L. Henderson, a paranoid schizophrenic Korean War veteran who didn’t get his VA claim in on time, have had to take their case all the way to the Supreme Court to win their client the care he needs.
I’m angry and concerned about how the current ruling will affect wounded warriors from our current wars. We’ve watched PTSD rates climb from one in every eight soldiers back in 2004 to one in five in 2008. Last year, the Air Force Times reported that more than 44 percent of soldiers seeking treatment from the VA were diagnosed with one or more mental disorders.
As the wars rage on and troops continue to deploy, those numbers will only go up. Men and women who need and deserve proper care will continue to slog through a bureaucratic process that’s already mired in red tape.
When the Supreme Court considers Henderson’s case, the justices will have a chance to set a new standard. Here’s hoping they do what’s right rather than what’s been done before.