Obtaining benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs has been disproportionately more difficult for African-Americans for decades. a federal lawsuit filed Monday alleges
“The results of VA’s racial profiling have been to deny countless deserving claims by black veterans, depriving them and their families of the care and support their faithful service has earned,” the lawsuit says.
Filed in federal court by the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic on behalf of Conley Monk Jr., a veteran of the Vietnam War, the lawsuit claims that Monk was repeatedly denied home loans, education and medical benefits because he is black.
Monk is far from alone, the filing alleges. According to VA records obtained through Freedom of Information Act litigation filed by the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress, of which Monk is a co-founder and director, and the Black Veterans Project, the average denial rate disability compensation was 5.3% higher for black veterans than their white counterparts between 2001 and 2020. And the racial disparity for median acceptance rates was even greater: 6.8%.
“They failed to redress the long-standing and pervasive racial discrimination and disparate impacts of those they knew or should have known about,” the lawsuit says.
Adam Henderson, one of the Yale Law School student interns working on the case, said his legal team has three goals: get reparations for Monk, get Veterans Affairs to listen and create a better legal path for others. black veterans get justice.
“We hope that in the future there will not be another generation of veterans subject to the same system,” Henderson said.
In a statement, Veterans Affairs press secretary Terrence Hayes acknowledged the “unacceptable disparities in both VA benefit decisions and military discharge status due to racism,” adding that the department is studying the role that race plays into benefit decisions and that the results will be published as soon as possible. as they are available.
“We are actively working to correct these errors,” he said. “We are taking steps to ensure that our complaints process combats institutional racism, rather than perpetuating it.”
At a press conference Monday after the lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the District of Connecticut, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., spoke about the disproportionate denial of benefits to veterans. blacks and asked for answers.
“We know the results,” he said. “We want to know the reason why.”
Both Henderson, who is black, and Mike Sullivan, another Yale Law School intern working with the clinic on Monk’s case, said they each found special meaning in helping Monk. “It really is like serving a brother,” said Sullivan, who enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school.
However, Henderson said there is still a lot to do.
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “The clinic and Mr. Monk will continue to fight every step of the way.”