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Report finds racial disparities persist in military discharge

Signboard of United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in Washington, D.C.
Kiyoshi Tanno
Signboard of United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in Washington, D.C.

Conley Monk Jr. came home to Hamden in 1970 after serving in the Vietnam War. His discharge was prompted by a PTSD-induced altercation in Okinawa, and categorized within the military as "other-than-honorable."

Mr. Monk spent decades trying to access basic benefits like disability coverage, until his appeal in 2015 ultimately changed how these kinds of cases are heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, now formally allowing class-action lawsuits.

This hour, Mr. Monk joins us along with his representation at Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic. We’ll discuss the new lawsuit they’ve filed against the VA, alleging racial discrimination.

Plus, a new report from the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC) shows how racial disparities persist across military discharge status, and how this impedes veterans' access to benefits.

Across four out of five military branches and roughly one million separation documents CVLC obtained, Black service members "were approximately 1.5 times as likely as white service members to receive an Other Than Honorable rather than Honorable discharge, and approximately twice as likely as white service members to receive a General discharge."

While the VA has not responded to the suit directly, press secretary Terrence Hayes provided a written statement to Connecticut Public, saying that the agency is working to address "institutional racism" and to review policies.

What resources are there for veterans who are trying to secure benefits where we live, despite what can be burdensome discharge documentation?


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Cat Pastor contributed to this show which originally aired January 13, 2023.

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Katie is a producer for Connecticut Public Radio's news-talk show 'Where We Live.' She has previously worked for CNN and News 8-WTNH.
Frankie Graziano is the host of 'The Wheelhouse,' focusing on how local and national politics impact the people of Connecticut.