UCLA School of Law’s Veterans Legal Clinic and the National Association of Minority Veterans of America called Wednesday for an investigation into police practices and policies on Veterans Administration campuses that create barriers to providing necessary health care for veterans.
In an advisory, the organizations ask Congress and the VA to investigate alleged excessive force, bias, surveillance tactics and other problematic practices involving the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Police.
The advisory emphasizes that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates concerns for veterans’ health and safety and adds urgency to an already troubling situation involving people of color or homeless, mentally ill or otherwise vulnerable veterans who turn to the VA for help.
A message sent to the VA public affairs office seeking comment was not immediately answered.
Sunita Patel, director of the Veterans Legal Clinic, alleged that VA police lack transparency.
They “operate outside of public view” and are “less transparent and accountable to the public or communities they serve than other law enforcement agencies, even as they deal with an extremely vulnerable population,” Patel contends.
The Veterans Legal Clinic, which opened in 2017 on the West Los Angeles VA campus, provides direct legal representation and advice to veterans seeking assistance with VA benefits and other civil legal services. Founded in 1969, NAMVETS of America has chapters across the country and is committed to improving the lives of people who previously served in the U.S. armed forces.
“Across the country, we hear from black and minority veterans who have had negative encounters with VA police,” said Horace Walker Jr., director of NAMVETS of America’s national veterans claims center. “VA grounds should be safe havens where veterans can get the support they need.”