The Department of Veterans Affairs is being sued by two veterans groups for failing to provide data on racial disparities in disability compensation benefits and healthcare services, according to a joint statement from the plaintiffs.
“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, who co-founded BVP.
BVP and the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress sought the records using the Freedom of Information Act.
The two groups asked three VA units for the data and requested that it be broken down by race and gender. They also requested records relevant to any internal reviews of racial bias, according to the groups.
While the plaintiffs did receive some data in 2018 showing that Black veterans receive disability compensation at a “significantly lower rate” than the overall rate of compensation, they said this data was not sufficient given the extent of the requests.
VA spokesperson Gina Jackson declined to comment on the pending litigation when reached by Military Times on Thursday afternoon.
Garry Monk, executive director of the NVCLR, said in a statement that Black service members have fought and died for the country since its founding.
“Yet, Black veterans have long faced racial discrimination from the VA, the very agency that is tasked with serving them,” he said.
NVCLR director Conley Monk said there must be a “complete and honest accounting of the discrimination taking place.”
Conley Monk said this is the only way that the issue can be fully addressed moving forward.
Both organizations are being represented by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School.
Melanie McGruder, a law student intern there, said the delayed responses “frustrates the purpose of the Freedom of Information Act.”
“The Board of Veterans Appeals, 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,” she said.
The Veterans Benefits Administration and the Veterans Health Administration are also named in the suit.