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Full Circuit to Deliberate Soldiers’ Mental Health

(CN) - An 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit will revisit a controversial decision for soldiers' rights that slammed delays to the treatment of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues.

In May, the San Francisco-based federal appeals court ordered the Department of Veterans Affairs to implement sweeping changes in the way it handles mental-health referrals and claims.

The group Veterans for Common Sense had requested a permanent injunction to force the VA to reform its claims process, but U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti found that such an order was beyond his power.

On appeal, a three-judge panel in San Francisco ruled 2-1 that veterans have a Fifth Amendment right to the "timely adjudication of their claims for health care and service-connected death and disability benefits."

"Because neither Congress nor the executive has corrected the behavior that yields these constitutional violations, the courts must provide plaintiffs with a remedy," the court ruled.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski disagreed, writing in a dissent that the ruling overstepped the court's power and "tramples over ... strict jurisdictional limits."

In a brief order published late Wednesday, the court agreed to reconsider the issue before an en banc panel.

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