It is clear that we have to have responsible and responsive programs for veterans that provide legal support, reduce veterans’ claims backlogs, and remove legal barriers to benefits.
With unfilled disability claims stacking up at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the ABA will provide training to volunteer lawyers who want to help veterans gain access to benefits they’ve been waiting months to receive.
As of mid-August, the number of backlogged veterans disability claims is 20 percent lower than it was at its highest point five months ago, according to The Washington Post, but they still add up to almost half a million.
To help veterans access their disability compensation, the American Bar Association last week announced a new website that will match volunteer lawyers with unrepresented veterans.
The website is part of a pilot program sponsored by the ABA, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Legal Services Corp. (LSC) that is working to reduce the backlog of claims that have been pending for more than 125 days. Announced earlier this month, the Veterans’ Claims Assistance Network offers free legal assistance from ABA and LSC attorneys to unrepresented veterans at the St. Petersburg, Florida, and Chicago VA offices with the aim of expanding nationally.
“It is clear that we have to have responsible and responsive programs for veterans that provide legal support, reduce veterans’ claims backlogs, and remove legal barriers to benefits,” Jack Young, immediate past chair of the ABA Coordinating Committee on Veterans’ Benefits and Services, said in a statement.
ABA explained that the program will match pro bono lawyers with veterans depending on geographic location, complexity of the claims, and the veteran’s and attorney’s preferences on scope of representation. The VA will identify eligible veterans.
The association—which reported that the VA receives roughly 900,000 new claims per year—along with the LSC, will provide training for participating attorneys, who will also be accredited by the VA.
Veterans’ disability claims have seen a recent surge due to an influx of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and new rules allowing for more Agent Orange-related claims, according to The Washington Post.
In an effort to eliminate the claims backlog by 2015, the VA has implemented several initiatives, including mandating overtime for claims processors.