Data from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has shed light on a striking disparity in the distribution of physical and mental health benefits between Black veterans and their white counterparts. In the fiscal year 2023, the VA's statistics show that 84.8% of Black veterans who applied for these benefits were granted assistance, compared to 89.4% of white veterans. This pattern isn't new; it traces back to at least fiscal year 2017, showing a consistently higher grant rate for white veterans.
New Agency Equity Team
To address these disparities, the VA has taken a significant step forward by establishing a new Agency Equity Team. The team's mission is to identify and eliminate any disparities in health care and benefits provided by the VA. The focus of this initiative is to ensure the fair treatment of historically underserved veteran communities. This includes Black veterans, women, veterans identifying as LGBTQ, tribal communities, and veterans from rural areas.
Behind the Disparities
Despite these disparities, a higher percentage of Black veterans receive VA benefits overall. This is attributed to a higher application rate among this group. Various studies suggest that Black veterans are more likely to have served in combat, report post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other health conditions, and utilize health care more frequently.
VA's Initiative: I-DEA Council and Equity Assurance Office
The VA has also established the I-DEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access) Council, along with the Equity Assurance Office. These entities will work collaboratively to understand the root causes of these disparities and ensure equal treatment for all veterans applying for VA benefits. The ultimate goal is to bridge the gap and create a more equitable VA system for all who have bravely served our nation.