Legal clinics are helping servicemen and women get their veterans benefits faster. These pro bono legal clinics are run by law students, and they help veterans substantiate their claims and get the disability compensation they need. Schools like the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., have helped vets file hundreds of claims which could help vets get free legal advice and reduce the growing backlog of disability compensation in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Because of the success of the clinic at the College of William & Mary, U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., introduced a bill on May 28 that would help other clinics get funding to help with veterans’ claims. Called The Veterans Legal Support Act of 2013 , the bill would allow VA to give up to $1 million per year to help these types of programs by giving them the financial support needed to continue to offer their services. According to the AP, 30 law schools in 18 states have developed these kinds of programs in the past five years.
“We have a responsibility to take care of our veterans and the VA isn’t currently doing enough,” Sen. Shaheen said in a statement. “The claims backlog is unacceptable and we still have too many veterans out on the streets. “Some of our nation’s law schools are greatly reducing processing times for the most difficult benefits claims and expanding access to legal services, both of which are key to preventing homelessness. Our bill would authorize the VA to work more closely with these programs and lower barriers for additional schools to develop their own. Our goal is to have a veterans legal clinic in each state.”
Because of the success of the program at the College of William & Mary, students there have written a guidebook for other schools interested in starting a program like this. According to the AP, Congress has deemed this program an inexpensive way to speed up the VA system of benefits processing.
“At 50 clients you’re directly representing at a time, that’s certainly not going to impact the backlog in a way that It needs to be,” Patty Roberts, director of clinical programs at William & Mary’s law school, told the AP. “But if you get more law schools across the country to do this work then you’re exponentially leveraging the passion and the experience of law students across the country to help with that backlog.”