Who the Project Aims to Help
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that there are presently over 22.7 million veterans in the United States, including veterans from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and, most recently, from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since September 11, 2001, more than 2.2 million American servicemen and women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of those, over 40,000 have been wounded and nearly 6,000 have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Many of these returning veterans pursue their educations and become business leaders and owners, community leaders, and elected officials. But for a growing number of veterans, returning home to civilian life means facing poverty and homelessness, physical and mental health challenges resulting from their service, and other obstacles.
A recent study found that in 2008, there were approximately 23.4 million living veterans, with only 8.5 million, or 36% of those veterans, receiving VA benefits and services. According to an independent media study on veterans’ claims in 2004, 572,000 veterans eligible for disability benefits are not receiving them. The VA estimates that presently over 107,000 veterans are homeless.
Title 38 of the U.S. Code sets forth a broad range of programs and services provided by the VA that servicemen and women are eligible to receive. Eligibility for most veterans’ benefits is based on discharge from active military service under conditions other than dishonorable. Some veterans’ benefits require wartime service. After discharge, many servicemen and women need assistance to obtain their veterans’ benefits, but do not know where to turn.
Project Salute: Young Lawyers Serving Veterans
The ABA YLD has partnered with the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law to develop the training and implementation materials for Project Salute: Young Lawyers Serving Veterans. As part of this program, volunteer attorneys will receive three hours of “live webinar” training to qualify for VA certification. The Division plans to have numerous “live webinar” training sessions each month throughout the 2011–2012 bar year to provide volunteer attorneys the opportunity to complete the training required for certification. Once certified, the trained attorney will participate in a pro se clinic, interviewing veterans and providing assistance and advice to complete the benefit forms on the day of the clinic. The Division intends to provide its Affiliates with all of the training and materials required to implement this “project in a box,” with no additional work required, aside from identifying volunteer attorneys to participate and providing the manpower to run the clinics.
The launch of this project will take place at the ABA YLD Fall Conference in Seattle, Washington, from October 13–15, 2011. In addition to a planned veterans’ clinic, program materials will be distributed to Affiliates to allow them to adapt and implement the program in their individual states. There will also be a live training session on Saturday afternoon of both the Fall and Spring Conferences, during which attendees can complete their required three-hour course for VA certification.
Clinics will also be held at each of the remaining ABA YLD quarterly meetings during the 2011–2012 year: February 2012 in New Orleans, May 2012 in Nashville, and August 2012 in Chicago. It is also hoped that Affiliates across the country will implement this program in their home states and make it a permanent program.
Our Project Partner—
University of Detroit Mercy School of Law
The ABA YLD is grateful to its project partner, the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law (“UDM Law”), for its assistance in helping to put together the Project Salute: Young Lawyers Serving Veterans project. The ABA YLD project is modeled after a UDM Law program, similarly called Project SALUTE, which was started in 2008. As part of the Project
SALUTE program, law students traveled throughout the country in Mobile Law Offices (converted recreational vehicles) to meet with veterans and assist them in obtaining their benefits.
The UDM Law’s program has grown considerably since 2008 and has promoted a national network of attorneys willing to provide free legal assistance to veterans to help them obtain their benefits. Through the UDM Law project, 1,135 volunteer attorneys have been trained and 166 attorneys are currently working pro bono on veterans’ cases. UDM Law’s program has counseled 3,512 veterans in 24 states, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C.
Honor and Thank Our Veterans
In 2011, we will commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States. It will also mark the 10th year since the commencement of Operation Enduring Freedom, our war against terrorism in Afghanistan and the eighth year since the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn in Iraq.
Whether as an individual lawyer, or through a young lawyer affiliate, the ABA YLD encourages its members and Affiliates to assist our veterans. In war and peace, from active combat to humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts, the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces protect our safety and homeland, ensure our continuing freedom, and help to maintain the rule of law around the world. Through this project, the Young Lawyers hope to serve our military men and women in their time of need.
How to Get Involved
All volunteers need to be accredited by the Veterans’ Administration before participating in training. The accreditation process is simple and requires a Certificate of Good Standing from a state bar. Project Salute: Young Lawyers Serving Veterans will assist volunteers in the accreditation process. Once accredited, volunteers will participate in a three-hour training webinar. There are several steps to implement and execute this project successfully. Please visit our website at ambar.org/yldservingveterans for more information about how to get involved.