U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Mark Warner (D-VA) today introduced legislation to increase cooperation between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and veterans legal clinics. The Veterans Legal Support Act of 2021 would allow the VA to provide funding to law school legal clinics that provide pro bono legal services to veterans.?
Law schools and their student volunteers have helped address disability claims backlogs and veterans homelessness in communities across the country.?Under attorney supervision, students provide a range of?pro bono?legal services, including assistance with disability claims, foreclosures, bankruptcies, divorce, child custody and some minor criminal cases.?By assisting veterans with complicated benefits claims, legal clinics are turning the VA’s most time consuming cases into organized applications that are significantly easier to process. In addition, preventative services like expedited claims assistance and legal counsel offer veterans an opportunity to address challenges before they deteriorate, often resulting in significant long-term savings to the government.
“Veterans legal clinics do tremendous work serving our most vulnerable veterans, allowing them to access essential, high-quality legal services. With many veterans facing bureaucratic challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic – on issues like foreclosure, accessing public benefits and processing disability claims – ensuring they have access to legal assistance has never been more important,” said Senator Shaheen. “My bill with Senator Warner allows the VA to work more closely with law school legal clinics to provide critical assistance to the brave men and women who have served and sacrificed for our nation.”
“It’s an unfortunate reality that too many of our nation’s veterans encounter bureaucratic obstacles in accessing the assistance or benefits they’ve rightfully earned. In order to help address these challenges, veterans legal clinics have stepped in to provide free quality legal services to help veterans cut through the red tape,” said Senator Warner. “Given the extraordinary sacrifices our veterans have made for our country, I’m proud to be introducing this bill to help our veterans get the timely assistance they need.”
The text of the bill can be read here.