Black Veterans coalition urge Biden for diverse leadership within the VA

'Too many have been needlessly neglected by a system that has failed them.'

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Black veterans are calling for the appointment of diverse leadership within the VA.

The Black Veterans Empowerment Council (BVEC) have released an open letter urging the BidenHarris administration to appoint Black veterans to senior roles within the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Those selected for VA leadership should be equipped with the cultural competencies and bureaucratic proficiencies to foster a culture of inclusivity and transparency from day one,” said Victor LaGroon, Director of the Black Veterans Empowerment Council. “It is imperative that the Biden-Harris administration take full advantage of this unique political moment to redress long-standing harms done to the Black veteran community. BVEC looks to work collaboratively in support of these efforts.”

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The BVEC letter coincides with Denis McDonough’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on Wednesday (Jan. 27). McDonough, a nonveteran who does not have healthcare experience, is Biden’s nominee to handle the issues of military veterans. He acknowledged at Wednesday’s hearing that he is not a vetran but vows “to serve them as well as they have served us.”

Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Considers Nomination Of Denis McDonough For VA Secretary
WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 27: Denis McDonough, U.S. secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) nominee for U.S. President Joe Biden, speaks during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee confirmation hearing on January 27, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo Sarah Silbiger-Pool/Getty Images)

“I’m not telling you that I’m a vet,” said McDonough, former White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama. “But I am telling you that I have come to understand the massive sacrifices that they’ve made, and I’ve come to witness the amazing skill with which they’ve done it.”

He continued: “There is no higher calling than to use my skills to ensure that we make good on our promises to them, to serve them as well as they have served us.”

Meanwhile, BVEC believes it is vital that Black veterans be represented within senior roles to forge renewed faith in the VA. 

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“Black women-veterans have been marginalized since VA’s inception,” said Patricia Jackson-Kelley, President of the National Association of Black Military Women. “Though strides have been made in recent years to address severe gaps in healthcare for women, solutions to the unique challenges facing African American women-veterans under VA must be led by senior leaders committed to representing our interests.” 

Steve Beren, spokesman for the conservative PAC Coalition for American Veterans said “the Biden-Harris policy on veterans and military issues is going to even be worse than in the Obama-Biden administration.”

Joe Wynn of the National Association for Black Veterans is calling foraccountability and change.”

“Too many have been needlessly neglected by a system that has failed them and too many are at risk of these continued failures,” he added. 

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