Lawsuit Alleges Racial Discrimination by Veterans Affairs Spans Decades

The U.S. government has long discriminated against “countless” Black military veterans, a new lawsuit filed Monday alleges. 

The case could determine if the federal government can be held liable for systemic prejudices that disadvantaged Black military veterans and their descendants. 

The lawsuit says that the discrimination has created a pattern that has led Black veterans to miss out on housing and education benefits disproportionately compared to their white peers.  

The suit was brought by Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic (VLSC) on behalf of Vietnam War veteran Conley Monk Jr. Monk’s applications for health care, home loans, and education assistance were “repeatedly” turned away by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the court filing says. 

It asserts that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) denied Monk’s applications for education, housing, and disability benefits for “decades.” 

The VLSC says the lawsuit could provide a legal pathway for Black veterans to seek reparations from the Veterans Affairs department, as well as help, determine whether individuals can seek compensation from the federal government for systemic prejudices that have disadvantaged them. 

“The negligence of VA leadership, and their failure to train, supervise, monitor, and instruct agency officials to take steps to identify and correct racial disparities, led to systematic benefits obstruction for Black veterans,” the lawsuit says. “VA leaders knew or should have known and negligently failed to redress.”

The lawsuit used internal VA data that showed that over nearly two decades, from 2002 to 2020, the agency denied Black applicants seeking disability benefits nearly 30 percent of the time. In comparison, white applicants were denied 24 percent of the time. The data also showed racial disparities in VA claims for home loans and education benefits.

In a statement that did not address the lawsuit, VA press secretary Terrence Hayes said the agency is working to combat “institutional racism.” 

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