In the midst of increasing turmoil throughout the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a growing number of veterans are having trouble successfully filing for benefit claims.
And, according to an August 18 Associated Press article, a growing number of people working in the legal profession are beginning efforts to help veterans get easier access to legal assistance for their claims.
“I think the sheer number of claims, and the resources that are available to process them, necessitate more lawyering in this area,” Hugh McClean, director of the Bob Parsons Veterans Advocacy Clinic at the University of Baltimore School of Law, told the Associated Press. “There’s just a tremendous need for veterans’ assistance right now.”
It isn’t just law schools and state bar associations that are working to help veterans — the Associated Press reports that even the VA is taking part in this effort, which is manifesting in “veterans’ clinics” that provide free legal assistance to veterans regarding their claims.
There are currently about 30 of these clinics located throughout the country, the Associated Press reports, but on August 11 the American Bar Association voted in support of pressing more law schools to establish veterans’ clinics of their own.
“Helping veterans through free legal clinics is a wonderful concept,” says Matt Hill, Attorney at Hill and Ponton Law Firm. “Unfortunately, the devil is in the details in that without significant training these clinics cannot offer meaningful help to veterans. Just because they are attorneys does not qualify them to navigate the intricacies of the VA bureaucracy. There needs to be a uniform training process that these attorneys and law students go through before assisting veterans. Otherwise they will know just enough to be dangerous.”
For many veterans, the lengthy time frame and complexity of the VA’s legal system can be a major source of strife, especially for veterans who have incurred physical or mental trauma or disability from serving. This in turn causes some to give up on filing a claim and others to have their claim be rejected due to a clerical error.
But by offering pro bono veterans’ clinics, a law student or legal professional trained in VA claims law can help veterans get the benefits they deserve.