The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced the establishment of a new team that aims to advance equity in benefits to all veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors – regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, or sexual identity.
The Agency Equity Team – known as the I*DEA (inclusion, diversity, equity, and access) Council – aims to improve outcomes for historically underserved veterans, eliminating any disparities in VA health care and benefits. The team will create and implement a VA Equity Action Plan and report directly to the VA deputy secretary.
“At VA, it’s our mission to serve all veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors as well as they’ve served our country,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a June 23 press release.
“This new Agency Equity Team will help us deliver on that promise, making sure that we provide every veteran with the world-class care and benefits they deserve – no matter their age, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, or sexual identity,” he added. “The team’s first order of business will be identifying any disparities in VA health care and benefits and eliminating them.”
The council will be comprised of senior leaders from across the VA, including leaders from the Veterans Health Administration, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), the National Cemetery Administration, the Center for Women Veterans, the Center for Minority Veterans, and other parts of VA.
Along with the new action-oriented council, VA also announced the creation of a new Equity Assurance Office within the VBA.
This office will work in coordination with the I*DEA Council “to eliminate any disparities in the delivery of earned benefits to veterans, including disability benefits, housing benefits, GI Bill benefits, and much more,” according to the VA. Laurine Carson will lead the office, which will report directly to the Office of the Under Secretary for Benefits.
These efforts align with President Biden’s Executive Orders (EOs) on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, which he issued in January 2021 and February 2023. The EOs ordered a whole-of-government approach to advancing equity and addressing systemic racism in policies and programs.