The ABA has launched the new Veterans’ Claims Assistance Network (ABA VCAN) to recruit volunteer lawyers to provide free assistance to unrepresented veterans who request their help in completing their disability claims before the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Even though the VA has made progress in the past year toward reducing the claims backlog, the department is facing an unprecedented recent increase in the number of claims from those who have been wounded and disabled as a result of their military service. Nearly half of the 558,000 pending claims – 274,000 -- have been waiting more than 125 days for adjudication. Under a memorandum of understanding finalized by the VA and ABA in June, the lawyers will focus on pending claims of unrepresented veterans that have had only preliminary, if any, development. ABA VCAN will begin as a pilot project operating in Chicago and St. Petersburg, Florida, and running through 2015. Approximately 3,300 veterans in those areas will receive a letter from the VA explaining their options for representation, including assistance through ABA VCAN. Lawyers interested in volunteering their services must register at ABAVCAN.org and receive training to qualify for VA accreditation to provide representation. “The ultimate goal is to help these men and women who served our country break free from the backlog and help ensure positive outcomes for their claims,” according to ABA President James R. Silkenat. Those working directly on developing ABA VCAN included staff of the ABA Governmental Affairs Office and the association’s Divisions for Legal Services and Public Services.