A law student staffed pro bono clinic that helps disabled veterans apply for federal benefits is being held up by members of Congress as a national model for dealing with the massive backlog faced by the Veterans Administration. The clinic, at the College of William and Mary, was started in 2008, and has helped numerous vets obtain benefits who otherwise may not have been able to do so.
The clinic uses law students and a faculty member, and focuses on complex cases in which vets may have difficulty providing the evidence needed to support their claims. Many of the cases involve vets claiming benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder, stemming either from warfare or a sexual assault of which there may be no record.
Between 2009 and 2012, the clinic helped 46 clients with submission of 343 claimed injures or illnesses. Of course, the backlog of claims currently faced by the Veterans Administration is unlikely to significantly reduced if such programs only exist here and there, but if more law schools develop similar programs, it could make more of an impact.
One lawmaker–Senator Mark Warner of Virginia–has urged his colleagues in Senate to work with law schools in their respective states to create similar legal clinics, and has urged VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to support that process.
Having an advocate in application process–whether for veterans benefits or SSDI benefits–can be incredibly helpful. In some cases, it can make all the difference. Those who have had troubles having a claim accepted do well to turn to attorneys who understand the disability benefits system.
Source: ABC News, “Vets Disability Benefits: Law Schools Curb Backlog,” Brock Vergakis, May 27, 2013.