Volunteering With the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program

Vol. 3, No. 7

 

Attorneys interested in helping their country and gaining appellate litigation experience should consider participating in The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program. This program provides veterans and other VA claimants whose claims have been denied by the VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals with free attorney representation in their appeal before the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC).

The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono program was established in 1992 when Congress sought proposals to create a program that would provide pro bono representation to appellants at the CAVC. Four organizations, the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans, the National Veterans Legal Services Program, and the Paralyzed Veterans of America formed the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program and submitted the winning proposal.

In order to participate in the program, attorneys must attend a free day-long training session in exchange for a commitment to handle at least one appeal before the Veterans Court. Once an attorney accepts a case, they receive a free copy of The Veterans Benefits Manual. The Veterans Benefit Manual is a comprehensive guide for advocates handling veterans’ benefits claims and appeals. It is usually two bound volumes and a CD-ROM.

Attorneys are also assigned a mentor who has training and experience in veterans’ law. Malpractice insurance is provided through a policy with the National Legal Aid and Defender Association Insurance Program.

Pro Bono Attorneys receive many benefits for volunteering their services. Opportunities for brief writing and oral argument exist. In addition, many cases present issues of first impression, thus providing an opportunity to make new law. Overall, the program offers significant training in the practice area of veterans’ law.

The program seeks and receives CLE credit with at least one state bar (usually the location where the training occurred) for each live training seminar that is offered. Several training seminars are taught each year.

Attorneys requesting CLE credit in a state for which the training seminar is currently approved need only submit to the state bar the form that is provided by the program. Attorneys who desire CLE credit in a state where the training seminar does not have current CLE approval must apply for CLE credit with the CLE administrator of that state. Thus far, no request for CLE credit has been denied to participants of the program.

Lawyers participating in the program may seek compensation for their services under the Equal Access to Justice Act. The Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA or the Act), 28 USC section 2412, requires agencies that conduct adversary adjudications to award attorneys’ fees and other litigation expenses to certain parties other than the United States in certain circumstances. EAJA also requires agencies that conduct adversary adjudications to establish procedures for the submission and consideration of applications for the award of fees and other expenses.

Attorneys interested in volunteering for the program should contact the program’s Director of Outreach and Education, Louis J. George, at 202-265-8305, ext. 117 or email him at louis_george@nvlsp.org. Jolene Duncan-Gould at 202-265-8305, ext. 162 or jolene@nvlsp.org can also be contacted.

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