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Veterans May Pursue High-Quality Health Care

WASHINGTON (CN) - The D.C. Circuit has allowed a group of elderly veterans to pursue their claims demanding the Armed Forces Retirement Home to provide high-quality health care.

The AFRH in Washington, D.C., provides full-time housing and medical care for about 1,000 elderly veterans. The chief operating officer of the home introduced a series of cost-saving measures in 2003 that plaintiffs claim cause the quality of their care to drop precipitously.

They complained about the unavailability of doctors and dentists, patient neglect and delays in getting prescription drugs.

Plaintiffs filed suit in 2005, claiming federal law mandates the home to provide high-quality health care.

They specifically asked the court to forced defendants to maintain "a primary treatment room, staffed by on-location physician, to provide primary health care to residents of the home seven days a week, 24 hours a day," and to make it easier for patients to access medication, treatment, examinations and other medical services.

The lower court dismissed their claim as moot since Congress amended the law in 2006 to require uniform health-care standards.

However, the amendments did not necessarily redress plaintiffs' complaint, the circuit ruled. It held that their claim is not moot because the amendments do not go far enough.

In a concurring opinion, Chief Judge Ginsburg disagreed with the court's reason for holding the issues in the case ripe for decision. See ruling.

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