By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently formed a partnership with the NAACP. This takes place about a year after the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School (VLSC) filed a federal lawsuit against the agency for long-term discriminatory practice on behalf of a Black Vietnam veteran.
Conley Monk Jr., a Vietnam veteran and former Marine, who lives in Connecticut, filed a lawsuit against the VA in November 2022, after it denied his applications for education, housing, and disability benefits for decades. Records show the VA denied the applications of Black veterans at higher rates than their white counterparts. About 36.5 percent of all living Black veterans are receiving VA benefits, compared to 28.4 percent of White veterans.
However in April 2023, the state of Connecticut asked a judge to drop the lawsuit in a 51-page document that said Monk, a Hamden, Conn. resident, received his benefits, including retroactive payments, after he sought help from a Yale legal clinic. The VA has been working to correct any discriminatory policies that have led to a denial of benefits for veterans of color.
When Monk filed his lawsuit in late 2022, Adam Henderson, a law student intern with the VLSC, said in a statement, “This lawsuit seeks to hold the VA accountable for years of discriminatory conduct. VA leaders knew, or should have known, that they were administering benefits in a discriminatory manner, yet they failed to address this unlawful bias. Mr. Monk – and thousands of Black veterans like him – deserve redress for the harms caused by these negligently administered programs.”
Henderson added, “There are still veterans who are putting in for benefits, getting denied and passing away. They won’t get a second chance to apply.”
As a part of the new partnership agreement, the VA and the NAACP will seek to increase the number of Black Veterans enrolled in VA health care, increase awareness of VA benefits and services among Black Veterans, and increase recruitment of culturally-competent providers at VA.
The new partnership agreement also calls for the VA and the NAACP to hold regular meetings, where the two will share expertise and knowledge, and coordinate on outreach to minority Veteran communities.