The American Bar Association just announced a Memorial Day initiative to assist veterans nationwide in getting the legal help they need to get their benefits, among other things. While the veterans’ benefits aid arena is largely dominated by Veteran Service Organizations, the ABA has formed a partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs to assist vets, too. With more money being injected into these Pro Bono (free help) solutions, hopefully veterans will be able to benefit from the wealth of experience and knowledge attorneys can provide their quest for a fair disability claim review.
With the recent push, the ABA is asking attorneys to donate time and services to help veterans and their families maneuver the various legal issues they face. The focal points are medical care, disability benefits, reemployment rights, consumer rights, criminal issues and family law.
The Coordinating Committee on Veterans Benefits and Services serves as the entry point for attorneys wishing to assist and volunteer. It also contains a state-by-state listing of Pro Bono Resources for veterans attempting to locate these services in their area. These organizations provide free services to qualifying veterans and families of veterans needing services within the legal areas listed above. To further this end, the ABA has provided grants to enable organizations to recruit attorneys to provide vets with free legal assistance.
For those unfamiliar with ABA’s ongoing involvement in veterans’ affairs, the ABA has also teamed up with other organizations to improve the administrative procedures of the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). Beyond this, proposals are on the table to expand the CAVC’s jurisdiction to allow De Novo review of the VA Board of Appeals’ fact finding of a particular veteran’s claim. This is of particular importance because there are numerous examples of the Board making mistakes in gathering evidence for a claim. Once that body of evidence is “finalized”, the veteran is generally stuck with whatever “facts” the VA found for the veteran. Since almost 25% of all disability claims decisions are reached using erroneous procedures, according to a recent VA OIG report, De Novo reviews could dramatically increase the number of successful veterans’ claims.
For those veterans seeking help, please click on the “Pro Bono Resources” link above. If interested in filing a disability appeal or request for increase, start the process by filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the appropriate VA Regional Office. Reviewing your file will help you better understand what you need to know about your initial claim to file a successful appeal or increase.