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Your civil rights and how to file a discrimination complaint

At VA, we don't exclude people or treat them differently based on their race, color, national origin, ethnicity, age, sex, or disabilities. Learn more about your civil rights. And find out how to file a complaint if you feel you've experienced discrimination.

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Your civil rights at VA

By law, you have the right to access VA benefits, services, and programs without discrimination based on any of these factors:

  • Race, color, or national origin (including ability to understand English, or limited English proficiency)
  • Ethnicity
  • Age
  • Sex (including sexual orientation or gender identity)
  • Disabilities

For example, a VA program can't deny you services or benefits simply because of one of these factors. And staff must make a reasonable effort to provide free aids and services to help you communicate effectively. This includes aids like large-print documents or services like an interpreter.

You have these rights in any VA program and in any program that receives VA funding.

More information

Learn more about the laws that protect your civil rights

We follow these civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in programs and activities that receive federal funds:

We also follow presidential executive orders like this one:

President Biden’s Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation

Read more about this antidiscrimination executive order on the White House website

How to file a discrimination complaint

If you think you've experienced discrimination at VA or in a VA-funded program, you can file a complaint with our external complaints program.

What to know before you file a complaint

  • This program is for Veterans, caregivers, family members, and others who use VA benefits and services. You can file a claim for yourself or for a family member or friend. If you’re the caregiver or fiduciary of a Veteran, you can file a complaint on their behalf.
  • You should file within 180 days of when you think the discrimination happened. If you don't file within 180 days, you can explain why you waited when you file your complaint.
  • You don’t need to have a lawyer to file a complaint. But you can seek legal representation if you’d like.

For help, call us at 888-566-3982. Then select option 4.

Note: If you’re a VA employee, you’ll need to use a different program to submit a complaint. Learn about the equal employment rights of VA employees

Instructions for how to file a complaint

To file a complaint, send us a signed letter with details about your complaint. Include as many details as you can in the form or letter. Be sure to at least include these details:

  • Your name, address, and phone number. If you file a complaint for someone else, include both your information and theirs. Also tell us how you’re related to the person.
  • The VA location where you believe the discrimination happened. Include the location name, address, and telephone number.
  • How, why, and when you think you were discriminated against. Tell us as much as you can, including the names of anyone involved in the issue.
  • Other people we can contact to learn more about your complaint. Provide their full names and contact information.

Send your letter to this address:

Office of Resolution Management Diversity & Inclusion (ORMDI)
External Complaints Program
Attention: Sterling Akins, External Complaints Program Manager
1575 I Street, NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC

What to expect after you file a complaint

First, our external complaints program staff will review your complaint. They’ll make sure they have the information they need to proceed. They’ll also make sure that we at VA have the legal authority to investigate your complaint.

Then they’ll send your complaint to the administration involved:

  • The Veterans Health Administration, or
  • The Veterans Benefits Administration, or
  • The National Cemetery Administration

The administration will review your complaint and assign an investigator. The investigator will gather more information in one or more of these ways:

  • They may interview you.
  • They may interview people who witnessed what happened.
  • They may gather documents related to what happened.
  • They may visit the location where you think you experienced discrimination.

The investigator will share the information they find. They’ll work with you and others involved to resolve the complaint.

VA benefits

  • Health care

    Apply for VA health care, find out how to access services, and manage your health and benefits online.

  • Disability

    File a claim for disability compensation for conditions related to your military service, and manage your benefits over time.

  • Education and training

    Apply for and manage your GI Bill and other education benefits to help pay for college and training programs.

Need more help?

MyVA411 main information line: 800-698-2411