WASHINGTON, D.C. – Black Veterans Project (BVP) and the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress (NVCLR) have filed a federal lawsuit against the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) over its failure to be fully forthcoming in producing requested data and records as required by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). BVP and NVCLR filed FOIA requests with three VA units early this spring to obtain records on racial disparities in disability compensation benefits and VA healthcare services.
“Following a widely known history of long-standing benefit obstruction and anti-black racism and discrimination by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Black Veterans Project seeks to compel transparency and accountability,” said Richard Brookshire, Co-Founder and Executive Director of BVP. “Generations of Black veterans have been denied benefits owed to them and their families for their service and sacrifice to our nation. Acquiring this data is but a starting point for a public reckoning around racial inequity and the injustices faced by Black veterans across the United States.”
BVP and NVCLR’s requests asked that the benefits data provided be broken down by race and gender, and also sought records pertaining to internal reviews or studies of racial bias, discrimination complaints, and anti-discrimination policies and training for VA employees. Although VA has provided some records, the complaint filed challenges the insufficiencies of VA’s response to date, including its failure to conduct adequate searches for records, and failure to respond to certain requests entirely. Preliminary analysis of the 2018 data the VA has turned over thus far reveals that the VA grants disability benefits claims at a significantly lower rate for Black veterans than for veterans overall.
“Black Americans have fought and sacrificed for America’s freedom since this nation’s founding,” said Garry Monk, Executive Director of NVCLR. “Yet, Black veterans have long faced racial discrimination from the VA, the very agency that is tasked with serving them.” Conley Monk, NVCLR Director, added, “We must have a complete and honest accounting of the discrimination that has taken place so that it can be fully addressed, now and moving forward.”
“VA’s delayed and incomplete responses to our clients’ requests frustrate the purpose of the Freedom of Information Act, which is to ensure that the public can know what our government is up to,” said Melanie McGruder, a law student intern in the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School. “The Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA), for instance, one of the three VA units from which BVP and NVCLR sought records, has completely ignored the request, in plain violation of FOIA. What is the BVA trying to hide?”
Black Veterans Project (BVP) advances research and public education to address longstanding racial inequities across the military and veteran landscape. BVP is a subsidiary of the Black Veterans Empowerment Council (BVEC) — a coalition of national, state and local veteran organizations seeking to shift long-standing racial, economic and social inequalities suffered by Black veterans in the United States. The National Veterans Council for Legal Redress (NVCLR) is a Connecticut-based veterans service organization that engages in advocacy and public education to promote the respect and acceptance of all who served our country, and works to secure benefits for those veterans and their families.
BVP and NVCLR are represented by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School.
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Press Contact: richard@blackveteransproject