This past Monday, a new federal lawsuit was filed that alleges it is disproportionately more difficult for Black Americans to obtain benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court by Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic on behalf of a Vietnam War Veteran, Mr. Conley Monk Jr., claims Monk was repeatedly denied for a home loan, as well as education and medical benefits, because he is Black.
“The results of [the] VA’s racial discrimination has been to deny countless meritorious applications by Black Veterans, depriving them and their families of care and support that their faithful service has earned,” says the lawsuit.
According to VA records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act litigation brought by the National Veterans Council of Legal Redress, a group which Monk is the co-founder and director of, the racial disparity for average acceptance rates was 6.8% higher for Black Veterans compared to their white counterparts.
Furthermore, the information found that the average denial rate for disability compensation was 5.3% higher for Black Veterans from 2001 to 2020.
Adam Henderson, one of the Yale Law School student interns who is working on the case, said their legal team has three main goals with this lawsuit: obtaining reparations for Monk, getting the VA to listen, and creating a better legal pathway for other Black Veterans in need.
“We hope that going forward, there won’t be another generation of Veterans who are subjected to the same system,” said Henderson.
Statement on Discrimination, Bias from the VA
In a statement, the Department of Veterans Affairs press secretary, Terrence Hayes acknowledged the “unacceptable disparities in both the VA benefits decisions sand the military discharge status due to racism,” stating that the VA is studying the role that race plays in benefits decisions and that the results will be published publicly as soon as they are made available.
“We’re actively working to right these wrongs,” said Hayes. “We are taking steps to ensure that our claims process combats institutional racism, rather than perpetuating it.”
On Monday, after the lawsuit was filed, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) was at a press conference where he spoke to the media about the disproportionate denial of benefits for Black Veterans, calling out for answers.
“We know the results. We want to know the reason why,” said Blumenthal.
Both Adam Henderson, and Mike Sullivan, another Yale Law School student intern working with the clinic on Mr. Monk’s case, said that they found special meaning in helping Monk.
“It’s really like helping a brother,” said Sullivan, who enlisted in the Marine Corps after he graduated from high school.
“This is the tip of the iceberg.”