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Did you know that Black veterans – and veterans of color in general – are more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD from military service? That’s what a recent study at the VA concluded.

The table below shows the percentage of veterans, by race/ethnicity are diagnosed with PTSD:

Asian:  38%

Hispanic 28%

Native American: 22 – 25%

Black: 21%

Those are statistically significant numbers. Clearly.

This post will focus on Black veterans – but it is important to know that this disparate treatment is also visited on Asian veterans, Hispanic veterans, women veterans, and veterans who identify as LGBTQI. If you would like to read some other interesting information about systematic discrimination built into the VA system, take a read of the VA’s 2017 Minority Veteran Report. 

What causes this phenomena?

Why is it that Black veterans are half again more likely than their white peers to be diagnosed with PTSD?

The VA offers several reasons why this might be happening.

First, the VA concedes that Black veterans are disproportionately exposed to the stress of war.

Second, the VA explained that Black veterans had several “predisposing factors.” The VA gave examples of these “predisposing factors”: decreased educational opportunity coupled with decreased community and family support networks.

When the VA “controlled” the study for the above two distinctions, the rates of PTSD between Black and white veterans was largely consistent.

Let’s be candid, though, about the elephant in the room.

Before Black veterans even show up at Basic training, they have lived lives under the cloud of three very specific traumatic events: racism, white supremacy, and systematic oppression.

No wonder Black veterans are half again as likely to be diagnosed with PTSD after military service than their white counterparts. In fact, PTSD is the most common disability in the claims and appeals of Black veterans (Back/neck, legs and diabetes are other disabilities that the VA reports are frequently claimed by Black veterans.

When  racism, harassment, and/or white supremacy occur in service, they are significant enough traumas to support a PTSD diagnosis.

However, the VA is unlikely to accept this as a stressor event, and often makes Black veterans fight all the way to the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims before admitting that a veteran faced discrimination, because of his or her race, while in military service.

Back in the days when there were DROs, I had at least one DRO laugh at my client’s argument that a particular verbal or physical assault in service was motivated by the Black veteran’s race.

“Your client shouldn’t play the ‘race card’ ,” the Texas DRO cautioned me. “We all bleed red here at the VA

Then, when Black veterans are service connected for PTSD, their ratings are often lower than their white peers.

This further addition of insult to injury manifests in a couple of ways.

First, I’m amazed at how many times the symptoms in a Black veteran’s record appear to support a 70% rating, but the veteran was only rated 30%. And second, most of the veterans that the BVA finds lack credibility are, at least in my 13 years of experience, Black veterans.

This is how systematic oppression works: Black veterans are more often diagnosed with PTSD, less-often service connected when they are diagnosed, and rated lower than white veterans when they do win service connection.

The layered obstacles a Black veteran must overcome means that a great number of Black veterans with PTSD never get the benefits they are entitled to, and as a result, spend decades longer trying to reintegrate into civilian life than their white counterparts.

It is precisely because of this systematic oppression that attorneys and advocates for Black veterans with PTSD claims must confront this issue directly.

We must paint detailed pictures of the frequency, chronicity and severity of the racism, physical violence and systematic oppression that Black veterans face in service. We must advocate for PTSD ratings that reflect the severity of the symptoms.

If you are a Black veteran and have faced these difficulties in your VA PTSD claims and appeals, the law firm of Attig | Curran | Steel, PLLC may be able to help you service connect your PTSD and secure you the rating that actually reflects the severity of the disability you have lived with for so long.

Please fill out the form below. (If you prefer, you can click here to go directly to the website of the law firm of Attig | Curran | Steel and request a consultation).

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This is a sponsored post from the law firm of Attig | Curran | Steel, PLLC. In the interest of full disclosure, the law firm has paid the Veterans Law Blog® a fixed for fee in exchange for sharing this post with VLB followers.

Although the Veterans Law Blog® does frequently interview medical, vocational and legal experts for this blog, the VLB itself is not a law firm and the VLB does not represent veterans.

1 Comment

  1. Kris

    Im a black veteran going through an 8 year claim with congress involved currently. They sent me a Rapid Appeals affidavit to sign telling me that if I give up my appeals they would finish my claim faster. Sounded like quid pro quo so that’s when I decided to involve congress.


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