Bicameral Letter Urges VA to Issue Antidiscrimination Regulations

a modern building with the words VA Health Care Center against a blue sky

Today, Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-FL) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) led a group of 51 members of the House and Senate in sending a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) urging VA to grant a petition for rulemaking (PFR) requesting that VA promulgate antidiscrimination regulations under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. Section 1557 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in federal health care programs — including those administered and funded by VA. The petition was filed in July by Minority Veterans of America (MVA) and 13 other veteran and LGBTQI+ rights organizations.

The Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic represents the petitioners in the PFR.

Read the Letter

“It is unconscionable that any American who answered the call to service would face discriminatory hurdles to quality and comprehensive care. They deserve nothing but the best service possible,” said Cherfilus-McCormick. “Alongside Sen. Blumenthal, I urge Veterans Affairs to send a clear, resounding, and enforceable message that no form of discrimination is ever to be tolerated.”

“Minority veterans are all too often victims of discrimination and harassment at the VA. I am proud to lead my colleagues in calling on the VA to combat barriers to equal health care by issuing critical rulemaking – our veterans deserve nothing less,” said Blumenthal.

“Veterans have rightfully earned access to VA health care through their dedicated service to this country,” said Lindsay Church, Executive Director of Minority Veterans of America.

“Many veterans encounter discrimination and harassment while seeking their deserved benefits with fewer protections than their civilian counterparts utilizing government-funded health care. The Department of Veterans Affairs has not yet provided guidance in alignment with Section 1557 of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act, which bars discrimination against veterans based on race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex, a mandate that’s been the law since 2010. It is imperative for the VA to fulfill its legal obligation by promptly implementing comprehensive antidiscrimination policies to safeguard all those who have selflessly served and worn the uniform.”

“This harassment has occurred at VA facilities across the country, from California to Florida to D.C. to right here in Connecticut,” said K.N. McCleary ’24, a law student intern for the Veterans Legal Services Clinic. “These veterans have been left with few options to address the harassment they have experienced. Although VA is working to make its facilities more welcoming, the reality is that minority veterans constantly face obstacles to accessing the care they have earned.”

Signatories to the letter include Reps. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY-13), Julia Brownley (D- CA-26), Jasmine Crockett (D-TX-30), Nikki Budzinski (D-IL-13), Troy Carter (D-LA-02), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Andre Carson (D-IN-07), Kathy Castor (D-FL-14), Daniel Goldman (D-NY-10), Steve Cohen (D-TN-09), Adam Schiff (D-CA-30), Morgan McGarvey (D- KY-03), Dwight Evans (D-PA-03), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-07), Valerie Foushee (D-NC-04), James McGovern (D-MA-02), Nanette Barragán (D-CA-44), Frank Mrvan (D-IN-01), Mark Takano (D-CA-39), Mark Pocan (D-WI-02), Kevin Mullin (D-CA-15), Mike Levin (D-CA-49), Chris Pappas (D-NH-01), Chris Deluzio (D-PA-17), Bennie Thompson (D-MS-02), Shri Thanedar (D-MI-13), Frederica Wilson (D-FL-24), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-18), Andrea Salinas (D-OR-06), Alma Adams (D-NC-12), Jason Crow (D-CO-06), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-08), Jonathan Jackson (D-IL01), Dina Titus (D-NV-01), Delia Ramirez (D-IL-03), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03), Colin Allred (D-TX-32), Greg Landsman (D-OH-01), Sara Jacobs (D-CA-51), Mike Thompson (D-CA-04), and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-37).

Senate signers include Sens. Peter Welch (D-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

Minority Veterans of America (MVA) is a nationwide, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works to foster belonging and advance equity for the minority veteran community, many of whom have felt marginalized, underserved, and underrepresented both during their time in military service and afterward.

The Veterans Legal Services Clinic, which represents the petitioners, is part of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School.