The United States Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) administered disability benefits in a racially discriminatory manner for decades, disproportionately rejecting Black veteran disability claims at a much higher rate than White veterans, according to a federal lawsuit filed by the Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic.
The lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of Conley Monk Jr., a 74-year-old former United States Marine Corps member, alleges that the VA’s disability compensation claim determinations systematically discriminated against Black veterans like him from 2001 to 2020, citing VA records from that period.
These records were obtained last year after Monk – as co-founder and director of the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress (NVCLR) – and the Black Veterans Project (BVP) filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on the administration of service-connected disability compensation. The VA initially failed to respond to all the requests fully, the suit says, but in 2021 the department “conducted further searches and produced additional documents” months after NVCLR and BVP filed a complaint in U.S. district court. The VA ultimately disclosed data for claims from 2001 to 2020, but the VA represented it did not fully retain disability decision data prior to 2001.
According to a Yale University statistician who analyzed the VA records, the records show throughout the two-decade period that the VA denied Black veterans disability compensation at an average rate of 29.5%, compared to the 24.2% of White veterans who were denied disability benefits. The VA notably granted disability compensation to Black veterans at an average rate of 30.3% and White veterans at an average rate of 37.1%, the lawsuit says the statistician found.
“I’m willing to get involved in this fight,” Monk told CNN on Tuesday. “This is something that’s not only going to benefit me, but it’s going to benefit other veterans. And if I have to lead the charge, then therefore I will lead the charge.”
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SOURCE: CNN, Jalen Brown