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June 01, 2013

Bill would increase role of law school clinic programs in helping veterans

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) introduced legislation May 23 that they say will maximize the role of law school clinics in helping to reduce disability claims backlogs and help decrease the number of homeless veterans.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) claims have grown by more than 2000 percent in the past four years and, according to the VA, there was a backlog of more than 500,000 veterans waiting for their claims to be processed as of June 9, 2013. The average waiting time is 262 days.

S. 1042, which is supported by the ABA, would allow the secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide support to one or more university law school programs that are designed to provide legal assistance to veterans. Such programs may assist veterans with filing and appealing claims for benefits administered by the VA and other civil criminal and family legal matters that the VA secretary considers appropriate.

 “We have a responsibility to take care of our veterans and the VA isn’t currently doing enough. The claims backlog is unacceptable and we still have too many veterans out on the streets,” Shaheen said. “Some of our nation’s law schools are greatly reducing processing times for the most difficult benefits claims and expanding access to legal services, both which are key to preventing homelessness.”

Murphy and Klobuchar emphasized that the men and women who serve in the military put their lives on the line every day. “We owe them nothing less than our full commitment to making sure our veterans get the care and services they’ve earned when they come home,” Murphy said.

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