Biden Admin Reportedly Wants More Black Veterans Declared Mentally Disabled

By Victor Winston, updated on February 15, 2024

A pivotal initiative has been set in motion.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has unveiled an equity initiative designed to bridge the gap in disability payments for mental health conditions among Black veterans.

This movement has sparked a heated debate on both sides of the aisle due to its direct aim at rectifying disparities in the grant rate between Black and White veterans despite the current higher rate of disability payments to Black veterans.

The initiative, officially known as Equity Assessment and Action Steps for Mental Health Compensation Benefits, was introduced to address an evident imbalance. The Department, under the Biden administration, has highlighted a concerning discrepancy in the approval rates for mental health disability benefits, with Black veterans trailing behind their White counterparts (70.3% vs. 76.0%).

Critics and proponents alike have voiced concerns about the potential implications of the VA's new direction. Some argue that this focus on equity could inadvertently lead to unjustified disability classifications or overlook veterans in dire need, regardless of their race.

Racial Dynamics in Veterans' Disability Benefits

The Department of Veterans Affairs has always stood as a beacon of hope for those who've served, promising support through various programs. This new initiative, however, puts a spotlight on an underlying issue of racial inequity that has persisted for years despite the generally higher rate at which Black veterans receive mental health condition payments (21.7% vs. 12.7%).

A statement from the VA sheds light on the gravity of the situation:

In recent years, VA has worked to engage Black Veteran [sic] to encourage them to file for the benefits they’ve earned. Throughout 2024, the VA will work to continue this trend by working directly with Black Veterans and organizations to spread the word about this study and encourage Veterans to apply.

The VA's workforce composition and proactive measures further underscore its commitment to inclusivity and equity. With Black employees constituting a quarter of its staff, the Department has taken tangible steps toward fostering an environment reflective of the community it serves. This includes recruiting efforts at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and mandatory unconscious and implicit bias training, aligning with President Biden’s Executive Orders on racial equity.

Challenges and Prospects Amidst a Military Recruitment Crisis

The narrative unfolds against the backdrop of a looming military recruitment crisis, influenced significantly by diminishing interest among White individuals. This context adds another layer of complexity to the VA's mission of promoting equity as it strives to navigate the delicate balance between correcting long-standing racial disparities and addressing broader challenges within the military and veteran communities.

As the Benefits Equity Assurance Plan rolls out, it represents a pivotal moment for the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), with implications that extend far beyond immediate policy adjustments. These actions speak to a broader commitment to inclusivity, diversity, equity, and access (IDEA), ensuring consistent messaging and instruction across all levels of the VA.

The equity plan, while ambitious, is not without its detractors. Some concerns focusing too narrowly on race might eclipse other critical factors contributing to disparities in disability payments, such as the timing of the application post-discharge. The VA acknowledges that there hasn't been a racial gap in grant rates for veterans filing within a year of discharge since 2011, hinting at a more nuanced problem that requires a multifaceted solution.


The Department of Veterans Affairs has embarked on a challenging journey to bridge the equity gap in disability payments for mental health conditions among Black veterans. While the initiative has stirred controversy, it underscores a commitment to rectifying disparities and ensuring all veterans receive the benefits they deserve. The conversation around this initiative is complex, encapsulating issues of race, equity, and the broader societal obligations to those who have served. The VA's efforts and federal directives on equity signal a steadfast resolve to address longstanding injustices and foster a more inclusive support system for veterans of all races.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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