The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs posts weekly reports on its website with data about pending claims. As of October 22, 2016, there were 379,735 of them. This number represents veterans who have so far successfully navigated the necessary procedures and paperwork to get the benefits due to them. One can imagine there are many more veterans who have not yet begun to explore their options—some because they do not know how to start the process, others because they do not know what they are entitled to, and still more who are not sound enough to seek assistance. American Bar Association (ABA) President Linda Klein has prioritized the initiative of providing legal services for veterans, calling on the profession to aid veterans when the justice system lets them down. What obstacles are there to prevent community-minded legal professionals from assisting veterans? And how can these professionals get connected with the individuals who need help?
At Emory Law, the Volunteer Clinic for Veterans (VCV) has established itself as an early, exemplary model of community service that answers the ABA’s call for veterans’ assistance. The VCV focuses on disability claims and pension claims, as well as cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury. More recently, it has begun looking at ways to lift barriers of reentry to veterans who have received less than honorable discharges. Helping veterans reenter society and become active, healthy citizens is no small task, and while the VCV receives calls from across the United States, its primary efforts are focused on the estimated 200,000 veterans who reside in the Atlanta metropolitan area.