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A newly surfaced 2017 internal Veterans Affairs report shows Black veterans were more often denied benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder than their White counterparts. 

The analysis reviewed data from fiscal year 2011 through 2016 and showed that Black veterans seeking disability benefits for PTSD were denied 57% of the time, compared to 43% for White veterans.

The report came to light thanks to Richard Brookshire, a Black veteran who served in Iraq as a combat medic.

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He co-founded the Black Veterans Project in Baltimore, which filed a Freedom of Information request lawsuit. 

Terrence Hayes, a spokesperson for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said the agency did not immediately have current data on a racial breakdown of PTSD disability benefits awards and said the agency “is gathering the data and will share it once fully compiled.”

NBC News reports Hayes wrote in an email that the agency could not comment on any ongoing litigation but that VA Secretary Denis McDonough is committed to addressing racial disparities as it relates to VA benefits.

Black veterans suffer more PTSD because they’ve survived more combat than White soldiers

Hayes noted that earlier this month McDonough acknowledged disparities and announced the creation of an Equity Team, telling reporters: “That team’s first order of business will be to look into disparities in grant rates to Black veterans — as well as all minority and historically underserved veterans — and eliminate them.”

Brookshire said the VA initially provided him with raw data from 2002 through 2020 that was analyzed by a team at Columbia University, and the data showed disparities, but the VA did not share its 2017 analysis until he filed the FOIA lawsuit.

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The 2017 analysis is significant in part because Black Vietnam veterans were found to have higher rates of PTSD due to the likelihood of being in combat in comparison to their White counterparts.

Though these findings are new, Black veterans have long been denied entry into the American Dream.

GI Bill was Gone Instantly for many Black vets

In 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill into law to assist qualifying veterans and their family members with paying for college, training programs and other benefits, however, many returning Black veterans never saw a dime of investment from the government’s economic boom.

As suburbs became a staple of middle class America in the ’50’s, not only were many Black families shut out of home purchases and White neighborhoods, but Black soldiers on the front line were strategically being disenfranchised behind the fog of war.

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While the GI Bill’s language did not specifically exclude African-American veterans from its benefits, it was structured in a way that ultimately shut doors for the 1.2 million Black veterans who had bravely served their country during World War II, in segregated ranks.

World War II veteran Lawrence Brooks holds his hand to his heart during the singing of the national anthem as he celebrates his 110th birthday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. Brooks was born Sept. 12, 1909, and served in the predominantly African American 91st Engineer Battalion, which was stationed in New Guinea and then the Philippines during World War II. He was a servant to three white officers in his battalion. 
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

According to History, when lawmakers began drafting the GI Bill in 1944, some Southern Democrats feared that returning Black veterans would use public sympathy for veterans to advocate against Jim Crow laws.

To make sure the GI Bill largely benefited White people, the southern Democrats drew on tactics they had previously used to ensure that the New Deal helped as few Black people as possible.

House Reps. re-introduce Restoration Act

Never too late to right history’s wrong, on Feb. 28, House Reps. James Clyburn (D-SC) and Seth Moulton (D-MA) re-introduced the Sgt. Issac Woodard, Jr. and Sgt. Joseph H. Maddox G.I. Bill Restoration Act in an effort to seek justice for veterans and their descendants who are owed numerous benefits.

“The quickest ways to overcome poverty in this country are through education and homeownership. The denial of these benefits to Black veterans returning home from service has impacted the accumulation of generational wealth for Black families across the country,” said Congressman Clyburn.

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“We must restore the possibility of full economic mobility and the promise of the original G.I. Bill to all impacted by these discriminatory federal practices. This legislation will honor that commitment.”

While the Restoration Act may be of noble intent, Brookshire isn’t convinced it’ll pass. I honestly feel like the G.I. Bill Restoration Act is fantastic, but I also know the political feasibility of that is very slim,” he stated.

Brookshire continued, “In most respects because of the cost and then because there seems to be some level of disagreement about whether or not passing a piece of targeted racial policy like that would withstand judicial review.

The US government dictated which citizens would have generational wealth and poverty

According to Post and Courier, the impact of these disparities in education and homeownership has only grown with time.

Consumer Federation of America reports homeownership between white Americans and Black Americans stand at 74.50% and 44.10% respectively as of 2020. This contrasts with homeownership rates in 1960 between Whites and Blacks, 65% and 38% respectively.

This homeownership disparity helps explain the difference in net worth for White families ($171,000) compared to that of Black families ($17,150).

Hailing from Charlotte North Carolina, born litterateur Ezekiel J. Walker earned a B.A. in Psychology at Winston Salem State University. Walker later published his first creative nonfiction book and has...

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