Disparities in care for veterans of color during global pandemic

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America’s Heroes Group radio program, during its Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute roundtable on October 17 welcomed Lindsay Church, co-founder and executive director of Minority Veterans of America. The organization, founded in 2017, represents and advocates for veterans of color, women, LGBTQ, religious and non-religious minorities, and allies, requiring equity, respect and justice for all minority veterans.

With the devastating impact of COVID-19 on minority populations, that advocacy is much needed, especially as spikes in new cases are popping up across the Midwest this fall.

Non-white Americans are contracting, being hospitalized, and dying of COVID-19 far more than white Americans.

Roughly 1 in every 1,000 Black Americans has died from COVID-19.

Black, Latino, and American Indians are all vastly overrepresented in cases and deaths. Racial disparities, systemic racism, and lack of equitable care have, in part, made Black Americans more likely to have worse health outcomes compared to white Americans, with their higher incidences of stroke, hypertension, and diabetes. These chronic conditions contribute to the risk of fatal COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Veterans of color, whose service in the military adds another layer of chronic conditions and toxic exposures, are especially at risk.

Additionally, economic stability has a huge impact on physical and mental health. It’s why one of the most critical items a veteran needs to have a successful transition from active duty to veteran status is a stable, well-paying job. Although jobs have rebounded since early 2020, there are still many without work – and the fallout could worsen by the end of the year.

Economic instability, due to layoffs and/or loss of employer-provided health insurance, could further exacerbate problems within minority populations. Although veteran unemployment is down from a high of 12 percent in May, it ticked back up to 6.8 percent in September.

Economists warn that unless the White House and Congress soon agree to a new aid package, tens of millions of Americans could lose their health insurance by the end of the year. State and local government are also strapped for cash. Nearly 13 percent of all veterans choose to continue serving the public by working for state and local government. So far, the federal government has refused to provide additional aid to state governments, leading to layoffs.

Many veterans, however, may qualify for care at the VA’s Veterans Health Administration. The Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute encourages veterans to take precautionary steps to learn what they may be qualified for in terms of VA coverage before they need it.

Learn more at https://www.va.gov/health-care/eligibility/.

To aid minority veterans, MVA has created several financial aid funds and sponsorships for veterans who apply. MVA has also advocated for veterans with members of Congress and delivered testimony on how the Department of Veterans Affairs can better serve veterans during the pandemic.

To learn more about Minority Veterans of America, visit MinorityVets.org.

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