Services offered by legal clinics - such as expedited claims assistance and legal counsel - offer veterans an opportunity to address challenges before they deteriorate

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced legislation to increase cooperation between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and veterans legal clinics. The Veterans Legal Support Act would allow the VA to provide funding to law school legal clinics that provide pro bono legal services to veterans. 

Some law schools and their student volunteers are making significant progress reducing disability claims backlogs and veterans homelessness in communities across the country. Under attorney supervision, students provide a range of pro bono legal services, including assistance with disability claims, foreclosures, bankruptcies, divorce, child custody, and some minor criminal cases. By assisting veterans with complicated benefits claims, legal clinics are turning the VA’s most time consuming cases into organized applications that are significantly easier to process. In addition, preventative services like expedited claims assistance and legal counsel offer veterans an opportunity to address challenges before they deteriorate, often resulting in significant long-term savings to the government.

“When our servicemembers made a commitment to defend our nation, our country also made a commitment to make sure they have the resources and support they deserve when they come home,” Klobuchar said. “While we can never repay the debt we owe to our troops and veterans who have risked their lives for this country, this legislation will help ensure our veterans have access to the basic legal assistance they may need to get the benefits they’ve earned.”

“Too many veterans are stuck in the VA’s claims backlog, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and hindered their access to the benefits and services they’ve earned. We have an obligation to use every tool available to assist the brave men and women who’ve served and sacrificed for our nation, which is precisely what our bill would help do,” Shaheen said. “Some of our nation’s law schools are greatly reducing processing times for challenging VA benefits claims and expanding access to legal services and I commend these students and faculty for their outstanding efforts. Our legislation would authorize the VA to work more closely with these programs and help other schools establish their own courses, ramping up efforts to cut down the VA backlog and expediting help for veterans seeking assistance. Leader McConnell should hold a vote on this common-sense legislation as soon as possible so together Congress can take a meaningful step forward to improve services for our veterans and their families.”

“Veterans legal clinics do the crucial work of providing quality and essential legal services to vulnerable vets who otherwise may not be able to afford it. These clinics also provide important practical training for law students as they help veterans receive benefits that they frequently cannot access,” Warner said. “Given the enormous sacrifices that these brave individuals have made for our nation, we owe it to them to explore innovative solutions that allow them to get the assistance they need and the benefits they’ve earned in a more timely manner.  That’s why I’m proud to introduce the Veterans Legal Support Act of 2020 – a bill to enable the VA to provide funding to legal clinics dedicated to serving our nation’s veterans.”

The text of the bill can be read here.