Saturday, 15 June 2024

VA announces 2024 Equity Action Plan, new actions to ensure that all veterans receive the health care and benefits they earned

WASHINGTON, DC – On Wednesday, the Department of Veterans Affairs released its 2024 Agency Equity Action Plan to help ensure that VA delivers on its promise to provide world-class care and benefits to all veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors ― regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or geographic location.

As a part of this effort, VA also released the findings of a new study today investigating disparities in grant rates for disability compensation for mental health conditions.

This study found that recently separated Black veterans have grant rates better than or equal to other veterans when they apply for disability compensation benefits within the first year of leaving the military and use a VA-accredited Veterans Service Organization.

This is a critical discovery because ― while Black veterans receive VA benefits at higher rates than other Veterans – their grant rates are lower for mental health conditions.

In response to this new data, VA will be visiting 15 or more Department of Defense installations to work with transitioning service members, updating our Transition Assistance Program curriculum that is provided to all transitioning service members, updating VA Solid Start scripts to inform recently transitioned service members of their earned benefits, working directly with VSOs to engage with Black veterans, and doing direct outreach to encourage Black veterans to file for disability compensation benefits within the first year of discharge and utilize VA-accredited VSOs when filing a claim.

VA released this 2024 update to its Agency Equity Action Plan in coordination with the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole-of-government equity agenda.

VA’s Equity Action Plan is part of the Department’s efforts to implement the President’s Executive Order on “Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through The Federal Government,” which reaffirmed the Administration’s commitment to advance equity and build an America where we serve all veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors.

“It’s our job to provide every veteran with the world-class care and benefits they deserve, no matter who they are, what they look like, who they love, where they are from, or how they identify,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “That means investigating any disparities in VA health care and benefits and eliminating them – and that’s exactly what this new study and plan will help us do. We will not rest until any and all disparities at VA are a thing of the past.”

As VA continues to deliver more care and more benefits to more Veterans than ever before, VA will strive to ensure that every veteran gets the care and benefits they deserve. Using the Agency Equity Plan, VA will work urgently to improve outcomes and eliminate disparities in Veteran benefits and health care; increase access to VA services; enhance economic security for all veterans, including historically underserved veteran communities; listen to and learn from Veteran communities; and more. These efforts are spearheaded by VA’s new agency equity team, which was launched in June 2023 to lead VA’s equity efforts.

Since releasing its first-ever equity action plan in 2022, VA has taken the following steps:

• Expanded care for women veterans: Over the past two years, VA has expanded breast cancer screenings and mammograms for Veterans with potential toxic exposures; supported access to reproductive health services, including contraception, abortion counseling and – in certain cases – abortion care for Veterans and VA beneficiaries; and dramatically expanded one-on-one maternity care coordination for women Veterans – the fastest growing cohort of Veterans at VA. Women Veterans are also enrolling in VA health care at higher rates under the PACT Act, and VA recently hosted its first Women Veterans Experience Action Center, helping more than 340 women Veterans apply for the care and benefits they deserve.

• Reached new, historic agreement with NAACP to improve quality of life for Black veterans: Under this partnership,VA and the NAACP are working to increase the number of Black veterans enrolled in VA health care, increase awareness of VA benefits and services among Black veterans, and increase recruitment of culturally competent providers at VA. VA and the NAACP also meet regularly, share expertise, and coordinate on outreach to minority veteran communities.

• Removed barriers to benefits for LGBTQ+ veterans: VA closed a gap in benefits for survivors of LGBTQ+ veterans, righting a wrong that was a legacy of the discriminatory federal ban on same-sex marriages. Previously, VA also increased access to benefits for veterans who were given “Other Than Honorable” discharges due to their sexual orientation, gender identity, and more.

• Increased access to care and benefits for American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans: In April 2023, VA announced that eligible American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans are no longer required to make copayments for health care and urgent care received through VA ― making VA health care more accessible and affordable. VA also lowered the interest rate for VA Native American Direct Loans from 6% to 2.5%, making access to housing loans more affordable for Native American veterans.

• Updated its mission statement to include all veterans: In March 2023, VA updated its 1959 mission statement to be inclusive of all those who have served in our nation’s military — including women veterans ― and veteran families, caregivers, and survivors. The new mission statement is: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.”

• Increased service delivery to veterans with Other Than Honorable discharges: Over the past 10 years, VA’s eligibility determination rate for veterans with Other Than Honorable discharges has been 74% ― meaning that 74% of those Veterans were granted benefits and/or healthcare. VA has also conducted extensive outreach to Veterans who received Other Than Honorable discharges, increasing the number of Veterans with Other Than Honorable discharges who applied for VA care or benefits from approximately 1,700 in 2012 to more than 10,000 in 2023.

• Released new data showing that the PACT Act is helping eliminate disparities at VA: In September 2023, VA released its first quarterly demographic supplement to the PACT Act dashboard, with data showing that the PACT Act is helping VA reach and serve all Veterans, including those in historically underserved communities. For example, American Indian/Alaska Native and Black veterans are submitting PACT Act related claims at higher rates than the pre-PACT baseline. Additionally, Asian, Black, Hispanic veterans, women veterans, and the youngest veterans are all enrolling in VA care at higher proportions than a comparable baseline.

• Created a VBA Equity Assurance Office and Equity Assurance Plan to eliminate disparities in Veteran Benefits: In June, VA announced that it has created a new Equity Assurance Office within VBA to eliminate any disparities in the delivery of earned benefits to veterans ― including disability benefits, housing benefits, GI Bill benefits, and much more. This office released an Equity Assurance Plan, which includes actions like requiring all VBA employees to take unconscious bias and implicit bias training and increasing recruiting from minority-serving institutions such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, tribal colleges and universities, and hispanic-serving institutions.

As this work continues, updates will be posted on VA.gov/Equity. Learn more about the administration’s equity work at whitehouse.gov/equity and check out all Federal Equity Action Plans at performance.gov/equity.

Upcoming Calendar

15Jun
06.15.2024 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Middletown Art Center exhibit opening
16Jun
06.16.2024
Father's Day
16Jun
06.16.2024 8:00 am - 9:00 pm
Middletown Days
16Jun
06.16.2024 9:00 am - 11:30 am
Moose Lodge Father’s Day breakfast
18Jun
06.18.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
19Jun
06.19.2024
Juneteenth
19Jun
06.19.2024 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Free veterans dinner
22Jun
06.22.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
22Jun
06.22.2024 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Love of the Land Dinner
25Jun
06.25.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park

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