Coordinating Committee on Veterans Benefits and Services
The ABA Coordinating Committee on Veterans Benefits and Services (CCVBS) was created by the ABA Board of Governors to provide a forum in which all of the ABA entities engaged in some form of work to address the legal needs of veterans could share information, consult, and collaborate—not just with each other, but also with groups and organizations external to the ABA with a similar focus. To meet this objective, the CCVBS meets at the ABA Midyear and Annual Meetings and is open to all attendees interested in veterans legal services. The CCVBS and its highly experienced members also provide support and direction to the work of the ABA Military and Veterans Legal Center and its initiatives. To learn more about the CCVBS, to join the mailing list, and to find out about the next meeting, contact Veterans Pro Bono Coordinator Holly Christian.
Military Pro Bono Project
The ABA Military Pro Bono Project is the only national network of attorneys providing pro bono civil legal services to junior-enlisted servicemembers and their families stationed worldwide. Unresolved legal problems affecting servicemembers and their families can have a direct, adverse effect on military readiness, so the ABA worked closely with the Department of Defense and the five service branches to create a system to connect military members with pro bono civilian legal counsel who work to solve the legal problem for the servicemember. Military personnel and dependents seeking assistance from the Project must first meet with a military legal assistance attorney for consultation. If the matter is deemed appropriate for referral, the military attorney will submit the case to the Project for placement with a pro bono attorney. Attorneys wishing to assist military families in need of civil legal assistance may register with the Project to be notified of volunteer opportunities in their jurisdictions and areas of practice. For more information about the Military Pro Bono Project, visit www.militaryprobono.org. To see example cases handled by our volunteers, click here.
Veterans Claims Assistance Network
The ABA Veterans Claims Assistance Network (VCAN) connects veterans and their caregivers with pro bono attorneys who volunteer to assist with the preparation of initial disability compensation claims for submission to the Veterans Benefits Administration. By connecting veterans with attorneys who use their training and expertise to fully develop the legal and evidentiary basis for the disability claim, the veteran has a better chance of succeeding in securing the benefits sought upon initial application and avoiding the lengthy delays involved in appealing an adverse initial decision. The pro bono assistance rendered by pro bono attorneys with VCAN is limited-scope and fully supported by training and mentoring provided by the ABA, making it an ideal volunteer opportunity for any attorney, regardless of practice background. Attorneys interested in learning more about volunteering should visit www.ABAVCAN.org for more information and to sign up. Veterans who would like to apply for disability benefits and obtain free legal help through VCAN may submit a request for assistance at www.VetLex.org.
The VetLex initiative is a joint project of the ABA and the Jones Day law firm. VetLex is an online platform that allows veterans, their families, and caregivers to request assistance with legal matters and be referred to local providers of the needed services. These providers may be pro bono program, legal aid, law school clinics, law firms, or individual lawyers. The VetLex platform will also allow for referrals other types of organizations and programs to assist with additional, non-legal needs of the veteran. Development of the VetLex platform is ongoing, and services provided through VetLex are being piloted in specific, targeted areas of the country as the system is tested and refined. More pilot regions will be added over time. Visit www.VetLex.org to learn more about the initiative and the areas where it is currently operating. Veterans with legal issues in the current pilot sites may also request pro bono legal assistance on the site.
Maintained by the LAMP Committee, ABA Home Front is an online legal education and referral resource center, first launched in 2011. The site includes a library of articles on a wide variety of topics relevant to servicemembers and veterans, written for non-lawyers, and a national index of military legal assistance, pro bono, legal aid, bar association, lawyer referral, and other organizations providing legal support to servicemembers and veterans. The site is available at www.ABAHomeFront.org.
First created by the ABA Section of Family Law and "adopted" and expanded and maintained by the LAMP Committee, Operation StandBy is a state-by-state list of civilian attorneys, divided by practice area, who have volunteered to provide consultation and advice to military attorneys when necessary to better advise their military clients. This often includes practice area- and jurisdiction-specific advice and direction that the military lawyer can relay to the client. Over 700 civilian attorneys are currently on the list, which is maintained so that it is accessible to only military attorneys, who routinely report how valuable this resource is to their practices. Attorneys wishing to volunteer their consultation services through Operation StandBy may do so by signing up at www.militaryprobono.org.
Other ABA Initiatives for Military Personnel and Veterans
Veterans Legal Checkup
A project of the Veterans Legal Services Initiative, the Veterans Legal Checkup is an online tool that provides users with a guided interview that helps assess legal needs. The initial pilot of the site provides the assessment in areas of family, housing, and employment law, specifically geared toward veterans. The endpoint of the assessment provides potential referrals for the user in the area of law in need. The site is available at www.veteranslegalcheckup.com.
Military Legal Professional Transition Toolkit
First developed by the ABA Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division, and recently expanded with involvement by the LAMP Committee and volunteers from the Nestle corporate legal department and White and Case law firm, the Toolkit provides educational information and resources for military attorneys and paralegals who are transitioning from the military into civilian practice. The Toolkit development group sponsored a networking reception in Washington, DC, in November 2017 with the Military Spouse JD Network, and it maintains a LinkedIn networking group. The Toolkit is available at http://ambar.org/jagstocivilian.
Veterans Legal Services Initiative
Developed by ABA President Linda Klein, the Initiative focuses on a wide range of legal issues affecting veterans and is executed by a twenty-member Veterans Legal Services Commission. During its 2016-18 duration, the Commission has produced educational programming, ABA policy, technology projects (noted above), key partnerships with outside entities, and other resources. All of the content and deliverables of the Initiative can be found at
Homeless Veterans Justice Initiative
Operated by the Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, the Homeless Veterans Justice Initiative works with the VA to address veteran homelessness by fostering replication of Veterans Treatment Courts, supporting the Veterans Justice Outreach Initiative, and removing barriers to housing and self-sufficiency by addressing child support arrears. The Initiative has also worked to advance ABA policy related to Veterans Treatment Courts. More information is available at https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_services/homelessness_poverty/initiatives/homeless_veterans/
Military and Veterans Health Law Initiative
Operated by the Health Law Section, the Military and Veterans Health Law Interest Group encompasses all areas of health law pertaining to active military and veterans with a particular focus on collaboration with the ABA Military Pro Bono Project and ABA VCAN program. The Interest Group also serves as a resource to Law School Veterans Clinics by providing a mechanism for sharing best practices, recent trends, proposed and new regulations and agency mandates, documents, policies, protocols and forms, implementation of laws and regulations, and content expertise. Details about this group are at https://www.americanbar.org/groups/health_law/interest_groups/educational_outreach/military/
Tax Law for Military Initiative
Operated by the Section of Taxation, the Adopt-A-Base program is a partnership of the Section, the armed forces, and the IRS to provide training to military VITA volunteers on bases across the country. The military VITA volunteers are servicemembers who prepare returns for other service members and their families. As part of the Section's commitment to pro bono services for our service members, the Section works to recruit law firms or groups of individuals to adopt a local base to provide this important tax training. For more information, see https://www.americanbar.org/groups/taxation/tax_pro_bono/assist_service_members/
Section of Family Law Military Committee
This group studies issues relating to clients in the military and their families, including procedural issues unique to the military, and custody and visitation, divorce, alimony/support, military pension division and Survivor Benefit Plan issues affecting military divorces. Reviews state and federal legislation and initiatives where ABA policy is affected, and teaches lawyers how to deal with military matters affecting state court legal disputes. Learn more at https://www.americanbar.org/groups/family_law/committees/military/