Step up to serve veterans with pro bono legal assistance

Photo courtesy of PLI.

United States military veterans are eligible for a variety of medical, housing, and financial benefits, but the system can be complex and difficult to navigate. Of the more than 18 million veterans nationwide, many are unaware of all the benefits they are entitled to from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – and often those who need help the most do not receive help.

This Veterans Day, learn how providing effective pro bono legal representation can be a meaningful and impactful way to give back to those who have served.

“I encourage pro bono work with veteran clients because the opportunity to give back to those who have sacrificed and served our country is personally rewarding,” says Deepa Arora, Pro Bono Manager and Staff Advocate for the association. nonprofit Swords to Plowshares, which serves thousands of homeless people. , low-income, at-risk veterans in the Bay Area.

She adds, “Navigating the laws and administrative processes involved in veterans representation can be a very challenging and intellectually fun experience. Most importantly, pro bono attorneys will have the opportunity to observe the tangible impact their work can have on the health and well-being of veteran clients.

Learn to help

Ready to start? Check out Practicing Law Institute’s Advocating for Veterans: The Basics on VA Benefits, Discharge Upgrades and Veteran Cultural Competency 2022. In this full-day program, available to stream on demand, attendees will learn how to navigate the VA claims process and to become an effective advocate for veterans in need.

Expert professors from Swords at Plowshares, Harvard Law School’s Veterans Legal Clinic, Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, and California Office of Access & Inclusion provide an introduction to benefits for veterinarians with disabilities; dive into the three elements of VA Service-Connection with a discussion of injuries characteristic of the most recent conflicts, PTSD and traumatic brain injury; and cover pensions and non-service-related VA claims.

Viewers will also learn how they can help veterans with less than honorable discharges (which may be for unfair or inaccurate reasons), as well as a discussion of military culture, the challenges veterans face when the transition from combat. in their communities, and how trauma-informed and client-centered approaches can help work with this population.

Lawyers interested in defending the interests of veterans should also keep abreast of the PACT Act (Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics). Representing the largest expansion of VA benefits in decades, this legislation, signed by President Biden in August 2022, dramatically expands Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and services to those exposed to toxins during military service. The PACT Act has implications for Gulf War, Afghanistan and other post-9/11 veterans, as well as those exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam and other toxic hazards.

Demand is great for these benefits: Nearly 113,000 new disability claims have been submitted to the Department of Veterans Affairs since the PACT Act was passed, according to the Military Times.

In the PLI One-Hour Briefing The PACT Act: New Benefits for Post-9/11, Gulf War, and Vietnam War Veterans and Their Families, available upon request, Swords to Plowshares professors discuss the law, reviewing the new presumptive conditions and required criteria and outlining benefits for veterans and their survivors. They also provide advocacy advice and procedural information on applying for VA benefits under the new law, examining a case study of a hypothetical pro bono client whose service in Afghanistan qualifies him for these benefits.

Additional PLI resources of interest include:

Racism in the Military: Defending Veterans Who Experienced Race-Based Discrimination and Abuse While in Service

A guide to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for advocates: how to effectively address PTSD in cases involving veterans and others affected by trauma 2022

“Bad Paper” from Pursuing Justice: The Pro Bono Files Podcast

Other Pro Bono Programs for LIP Veterans


Practicing Law Institute is a non-profit learning organization dedicated to keeping lawyers and other professionals at the forefront of knowledge and expertise. PLI is chartered by the Regents of the State University of New York and was founded in 1933 by Harold P. Seligson. The organization offers the highest quality accredited continuing legal and professional education programs in a variety of formats that are taught by more than 4,000 volunteer faculty, including lawyers, judges, investment bankers, accountants , corporate counsel, and US and international government regulators. PLI publishes a comprehensive library of treatises, textbooks, answer books and journals also available through the PLI PLUS online platform. The essence of PLI’s mission is its commitment to the pro bono community. See upcoming PLI programs here.

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