Racism led to lower benefits for black veterans, two studies find
This follows a March report from the Brandeis Institute for Economic and Racial Equity that said the GI Bill, often touted for providing substantial financial assistance to those who served, actually “contributed to the gap of racial wealth” and had a negative impact on African Americans through its racist implementation. .
Some Democratic lawmakers are trying to address this issue. Their legislation, Sgt. Isaac Woodard, Jr. and Sgt. Joseph H. Maddox GI Bill Restoration Act, would extend certain benefits to African American vets and their families, if they can prove that racism affected their benefits. Woodward, a World War II veteran, was beaten and blinded in uniform by South Carolina police who dragged him from a bus in 1946. Maddox, another World War II vet, was accepted by Harvard University, but was denied Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) financial aid because the agency wanted to “avoid setting a precedent,” according to the bill’s sponsors, who plan to reintroduce the proposal next year.
Consistent with President Biden’s emphasis on equity in federal programs, VA recognizes racial bias and is committed to addressing it.
“We fully understand that there are disparities in discharge status due to racism, which unfairly disadvantage Black Veterans and, at times, wrongfully leave Black Veterans without access to VA care and benefits,” said VA publicist Terrence Hayes via email.
Hayes says the department is trying to address the issue by reassessing its policies on veterans who have been wrongfully given other-than-honorable discharges, seeking to eliminate institutional racism in the claims process, and reaching out to veterans with other than honorable discharges to educate them about VA benefits and health care options.
For his report, Connecticut Veterans Legal Center researchers reviewed all Department of Defense discharges from fiscal year 2014 through 2022. They found that African Americans are about 1.5 times more likely than white service members to receive discharges. discharges other than honorable, but found “no similar pronounced disparities” with other racial and ethnic groups.
“VA assumes that all veterans with a [other-than-honorable] dismissal were discharged from service under dishonorable conditions and therefore are not legally “veterans,” according to the legal center. This “presumptively excludes” these veterans from certain benefits, unless the veterans convince authorities otherwise. Many veterinarians believe their exclusions are final and do not appeal a denial of benefits, according to the report.
The GI Bill does not mention race. But it was racially implemented through “localized discriminatory practices” which, according to the Brandeis report, led to:
• African American veterans receive only 40% of the value of benefits that white veterans received.
• An average annual increase in income of $16,000 for white veterans, while “for black men, service in World War II is estimated to have had a negative effect,” although not statistically significant .
• Black veterans with an average net worth of $45,650, compared to $147,500 for white veterans.
Despite the bill’s racially neutral language, “segregation and systemic racism limited how black veterans were able to use their benefits,” said the Brandeis document, which is an interim report on a study wider. “Black people could not use their money to buy an education in whites-only schools or real estate in whites-only neighborhoods. Money only has value because it can be used to buy things, and black veterans might use their money to buy fewer things.
Black veterans and their families would have more money if the GI Bill Restoration Act, which was first introduced on Pearl Harbor Day 2020 and again ahead of Veterans Day last year, is approved. The legislation states that VA “denied African Americans access to educational benefits at certain universities” and “adopted the Federal Housing Administration’s racial exclusion programs, also known as redlining.”
It would extend housing and education benefits to Black World War II veterans, their surviving spouses, children, grandchildren and other direct descendants if they can certify that they have been “denied a benefit specific…on the basis of race”. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), the author of the bill, acknowledged that it could be difficult to prove, but said the clause was necessary to protect against fraud, while ensuring benefits to those who deserve them. It’s also a “political concern,” he said, to encourage support from Republicans who might fear cheating.
Now the fight is to get Republican co-sponsors for the legislation with an estimated $80 billion price tag. “It’s going to take real work to get it through because it costs a lot of money,” Moulton said in an interview. But, he added, it had nothing to do with the greater and “massive” loss to the country and African-American veterans, particularly from the discriminatory behavior they suffered. The legislation is also sponsored by Rep. James E. Clyburn (DS.C.) and Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.).
Moulton said he used veterans benefits to help fund his first home and higher education, wealth-building benefits that many black veterans were denied due to the dual challenge of racism in job classifications. release and availability of benefits.
“As the 75th anniversary of the desegregation of our military looms” in July 2023, said Richard Brookshire, co-founder of the Black Veterans Project, “the devastating legacy of bad paper dumps – which proliferated during World War II until today, generations of black troops have lost the social and economic benefits of military service.
Moulton wants it to end.