The University of San Diego School of Law is pleased to announce that its Veterans Legal Clinic will begin offering expanded free legal services to veterans in the San Diego community. Founded in 2012, the Veterans Legal Clinic has focused on assisting veterans in disputes with for-profit institutions over the use of GI Bill funds and predatory lending. While the work of assisting student veterans will continue, the Veterans Legal Clinic will now also represent veterans appealing VA disability determinations and those seeking to change the characterization of service of their military discharge.
The severe backlog of veterans’ disability claims is staggering. As recently as September 2013, more than 751,000 veteran disability claims were pending before the VA nationwide. Approximately 457,000 of those claims had been pending for over 125 days, the VA’s benchmark for timeliness. While the VA has made recent strides in bringing down these numbers, less focus has been aimed at the unacceptably high corresponding error rate, thus creating a new backlog of veterans appealing their initial disability determinations. The USD Veterans Legal Clinic is well positioned to provide pro bono help to veterans in the San Diego community caught in the VA disability appeal process.
In addition to a surge in veterans’ disability claims, another consequence of a decade of war is the more than 100,000 veterans that received less than honorable discharges from the military. Such discharges strip veterans of important benefits, preclude them from finding gainful employment and significantly hinder their ability to make a successful transition to civilian life. A surprisingly high number of those discharged under less than honorable conditions suffered from undiagnosed, and untreated, post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, or other combat related challenges. Often these veterans have no one to turn to for assistance. The Veterans Legal Clinic’s expansion of services to represent such veterans will allow these veterans to apply for a correct characterization of their military service and receive the benefits, and respect, they deserve.
“I’m thrilled that the Veterans Legal Clinic will now be offering these two new services to veterans in need,” said Veterans Legal Clinic Supervising Attorney Robert Muth. “These are two of the most needed legal services in the veteran community in San Diego and up until now there has been little to no pro bono assistance available to these deserving veterans,” Muth explained.
Veterans seeking assistance for GI Bill disputes, disability determination appeals, or help challenging their characterization of discharge should contact the Veterans Legal Clinic at 619.260.7470 or visit its website at www.sandiego.edu/veteransclinic for more information.