The clinic is representing Conley Monk Jr., a Black marine and New Haven resident who was denied veterans’ rewards.
Sadie Bograd, Contributing Photographer
When Elm City resident Conley Monk Jr., returned from the Vietnam War, he anticipated to acquire support from the Veterans’ Administration — now recognized as the Office of Veterans Affairs, or VA. Rather, he became just one of the countless numbers of Black veterans to be denied rewards by the VA.
Monk introduced that he is suing the VA for negligence at a press conference at the Dixwell Group Centre on Oct. 28. The push conference involved phrases by Monk’s authorized illustration — The Veterans Authorized Services Clinic at Yale Law School, or VLSC — Senator Richard Blumenthal Law ’73 and the nationwide nonprofit Black Veterans Challenge.
“Since our nation’s founding, our federal government has relied on Black Americans to gain its wars,” claimed Richard Brookshire, the executive director of the Black Veterans Challenge. “Yet for a long time, it has allowed racially discriminatory practices to hinder Black veterans from equally accessing veterans’ housing, instruction and healthcare positive aspects.”
Monk is seeking compensatory damages for the VA’s negligence. He has individually submitted an administrative claim on behalf of his father, a Planet War II veteran who was also denied benefits.
The lawsuit alleges that racial bias in the navy justice technique manufactured Black service members considerably less very likely to get honorable discharges, which in switch affected their eligibility for VA positive aspects.
In 2021, the VA provided records of disability compensation statements in reaction to Liberty of Facts Act requests from the National Veterans Council for Authorized Redress, which Monk co-established and directs and the Black Veterans Task. The records the VA disclosed reveal that there are statistically substantial racial disparities in the outcomes of veterans’ benefit claims.
Concerning 2001 and 2020, for instance, the VA on ordinary denied 29.5 p.c of Black veterans’ requests for disability compensation, compared to 24.2 percent of white veterans’ requests.
The lawsuit accuses the VA of negligence, stating that even though the VA understood or should have regarded about these disparities, they did not tackle them. As evidence of this disparity’s popular recognition, it factors out that the Equal Employment Possibility Fee stops employers from demanding applicants to have honorable discharges for the reason that of pervasive discrimination in the discharge procedure.
“For decades, there have been anecdotal stories and widespread suspicion of racial discrimination in the VA advantages programs,” claimed Adam Henderson Law ’23, an intern at the VLSC. “The VA has denied numerous meritorious applications of Black veterans and hence deprived them and their households of the support that they are entitled to.”
Monk is just one such veteran. Immediately after serving in Vietnam in 1969, Monk commenced to practical experience indicators of article-traumatic stress ailment. He received an unwanted discharge, now recognized as a discharge “under other than honorable” circumstances,” in 1970 just after an altercation brought about by his PTSD-induced hypervigilance.
When the VA conducted a Character of Discharge dedication, they unsuccessful to take into account the instances encompassing Monk’s discharge and declared him ineligible for instruction and housing rewards, leaving Monk quickly homeless. The VA also denied Monk incapacity rewards for PTSD, and afterwards for diabetic issues.
The section repeatedly declined to carry out a new Character of Discharge resolve, even immediately after Monk obtained a official PTSD prognosis. It was not until finally 2015, immediately after an enchantment in which Monk was represented by the VLSC, that Monk commenced to acquire incapacity compensation, and only in 2020 did the VA realize that Monk need to have been suitable for positive aspects considering the fact that his initial software for compensation in 1971.
Henderson explained the two promises as evidence of “the generational harm that the VA has prompted.”
The speakers expressed their hope that Conley’s lawsuit sets a precedent for other Black veterans to also seek out out payment.
“My lawsuit is also likely to guide the cost for other veterans,” Monk explained. “We are hoping and praying that we are successful in our battle because it’s not only for me and my father, it’s for thousands of other veterans that are undergoing the very same form of predicament.”
The lawsuit also alleges that even soon after Monk obtained some benefits, they had been inadequate and did not handle “the exceptional damage Mr. Monk experienced due to VA’s pattern of racial discrimination.”
Blumenthal said that regardless of irrespective of whether the lawsuit is profitable, it will get in touch with awareness to the VA’s methods and inspire the division to reexamine the discharge and rewards program.
“At the pretty minimum, the VA and the Department of Defense are heading to have to appear at themselves in the mirror and say, ‘What is the motive for these disparate results?’” Blumenthal stated. “What we have to have to do is study the complete process: the considerably less than honorable discharge procedure, undesirable paper discharge, standard discharge. These sorts of labels can stigmatize a veteran and stain his odds for results during lifetime, not just with the VA, but all over qualified and individual lifetime.”
Monk is suing under the Federal Tort Statements Act, which was enacted in 1946.