1-Hour Program

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Race discrimination in the military is pervasive and can have detrimental effects on service members' lives and their mental health. A recent independent survey found that over 50% of service members have witnessed white nationalism or racism in the military. Service members of color confirm this finding, with a significant number reporting to the DOD that they have personally experienced discrimination or racial harassment while on active duty.  Moreover, not unlike other aspects of the criminal justice system, people of color in the military are both investigated more often and punished more severely than their white counterparts. This means they are more likely to leave the military with a less than honorable discharge, limiting their access to many VA benefits. Race discrimination in service can also be experienced by many service members as a psychological trauma and lead to long-lasting mental health conditions.

During this One-Hour Briefing Amy Rose, the Managing Attorney at Swords to Plowshares, and Deepa Arora, Staff Attorney at Swords to Plowshares, will give a historical overview of race discrimination in the military and review the current struggles that service members of color face today. Amy and Deepa will then discuss ways that race discrimination and race-based trauma can lead veterans of color to leave the service with less than honorable discharges. They will touch on the detrimental impact of these adverse discharges and explain ways to assist and advocate for these veterans. They will close by discussing how the trauma of race discrimination in service can lead to residual mental health conditions and how advocates can help veterans obtain service-connected compensation. 

Topics include:

  • Introductions, historical information and current studies re: racism within the branches, including statistics on race and the military justice system (10 minutes)
  • Advocacy for veterans given less than honorable discharge due to race discrimination (25 minutes)                                                                                                                                             *Discharge upgrade and VA character of discharge arguments involving race-based discrimination
  • Mental health service connection claims for those with residual mental health disabilities due to race-based discrimination and trauma (25 minutes)

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