On Thursday, June 23rd, 2022 Black Veterans Empowerment Council (BVEC) will host the first convening of Black veterans organizations to foster deeper collaboration in confronting long-standing racial, social and economic inequities suffered by Black veterans of the United States Military.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 17, 2022) – Following decades of persisting racial inequities in joblessness, homelessness and access to veterans benefits, as well as rising concerns of continued racial disparities in military justice, career advancement and awards and recognitions, 19 Black veterans groups have organized a coalition under the Black Veterans Empowerment Council to increase benefits utilization, centralize policy advocacy around disparities, and honor the legacy of Black veterans. BVEC’s inaugural national convening will bring together leaders of all stripes, researchers, service providers, and public servants committed to advancing racial equity and equal opportunity for Black veterans, service members and their families.
“For the first time in our nation’s history, Black veterans organizations across the country are coalescing in a spirit of collaboration to better serve the totality of the Black veteran's community and honor all the intersectionalities of our experiences,” said Victor LaGroon, Chairman of the Black Veterans Empowerment Council (BVEC). “Our objective is to equip and connect an unprecedented network of organizations across the non-profit, public and private sectors while fostering a clear path forward to curb the social and economic inequities faced by Black veterans throughout the United States through benefits utilization.”
At the height of the COVID pandemic, while accounting for less than 12 percent of the nation’s veterans population, Black veterans comprised 22 percent of all COVID deaths across the Department of Veterans Affairs. Equally troubling, Black veterans account for a third of all homeless veterans nationwide. Overall, minority veterans remain twice as likely to live in poverty and face a 44 percent greater likelihood of unemployment relative to white veterans. Widespread racial disparities in bad paper discharges across generations of service further complicate accessibility to vital veterans' housing, education and healthcare benefits. Recent studies also reveal persisting statistically significant disparities in denial rates for disability compensation faced by Black veterans.
Initially convened as a roundtable of Black veterans groups organized to advise Rep. Mark Takano, Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, following the murder of George Floyd in May of 2020, BVEC officially formed to sustain collaboration across legislative advocacy, benefit utilization and historic preservation. Under the leadership of Chairman Victor LaGroon, the coalition has grown to include: 555 Parachute Infantry Association, Black Veterans Project, Collaborate and Graduate, Compton Veterans, Do More Together, Kappa Epsilon Psi Military Sorority Inc., Kappa Lambda Chi Military Fraternity, Inc., Kids Rank, Leave No Veteran Behind, National Association for Black Veterans, National Association of Black Military Women, National Association of Minority Veterans, National Montford Point Marine Association, National Women' Veterans United, Our Legacy Group, SLD Group, Talento Total, Uplift Energy Coaching and Warrior Summit Coalition.
With generous support from Boeing, Microsoft, McDonald’s, The Robert R. McCormick Foundation, and Nike, BVEC’s inaugural national convening will be held at The Gathering Spot in Washington D.C. Speakers and special guests slated to participate include: BVEC Chairman Victor LaGroon, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough, Secretary of the Department of Labor Martin J. Walsh, Commissioner of New York City’s Department of Veterans Services James Hendon, Director of Cook County Department of Veterans Affairs Deanna Love, Founder and CEO of Women Veterans Interactive Ginger Miller, Founder of She Vets It Althea Williams, Founder of WINNERS Nickey Knighton, Senior Program Officer for the McCormick Foundation Emmanuel Johnson, Co-Founder of the Black Veterans Project Richard Brookshire and Clinical Professor of Law at Yale Law School Mike Wishnie.
“Historically, Black veterans have suffered the indignity of serving under the thumb of prejudice only to return home to face obstruction to the benefits they’ve earned,” said Richard Brookshire, Co-Founder of the Black Veterans Project. “After World War II, the vast majority of returning Black veterans were obstructed from using their GI Bill, resulting in tens of billions in economic harm that still reverberates across generations of their descendants. The Black Veterans Empowerment Council marks a turning point in that history, as we look toward collaboration across our community to bring about a needed reckoning for justice and equity.”
"We are excited to work with a consortium of culturally competent organizations to increase the utilization of earned VA benefits for Black veterans. This effort will improve the social and economic outcomes of the veteran, their families, and the communities in which they live,” said Eli Williamson, Co-Founder of Leave No Veteran Behind
“We are honored to attend and look forward to working with other like-minded organizations for the betterment of all veterans. The work that the Black Veterans Empowerment Council is doing to elevate our veterans through education and providing assistance to ensure they receive the best care possible is limitless,” said Beverly Wyche Reid, National President, Kappa Epsilon Psi Military Sorority, Inc.
“Minority veterans face unique stressors when confronting discrimination in uniform. These stressors can lead to feelings of apathy, anxiety, hopelessness, and fear that can be compounded by inaccessibility to veterans benefits. The National Association of Minority Veterans looks forward to working constructively with the Black Veterans Empowerment Council to ensure collaboration across organizations committed to advancing equity and access for Black veterans,” said Dr. Xavier Bruce, National Vice Commander of the National Association of Minority Veterans.
The Black Veterans Empowerment Council (BVEC) is a coalition of national, state and local veterans organizations seeking to shift long-standing racial, economic and social inequalities suffered by Black veterans in the United States.
# # #