Law Students

Law Students Help Speed Up Backlogged Veterans Benefits Claims
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helping veterans get benefits

Thousands of veterans whose benefits claims have become backlogged may have a new solution: a new partnership between the William & Mary Law School and the Veteran’s Administration is using law students to handle veteran benefits claims more quickly. The hope is that the program can address the notoriously long processing times that disabled veterans currently experience.

The William & Mary program is the first of its kind and is part of longstanding efforts to reduce current processing times for veterans, which can run in excess of a year in the worst instances. The law clinic operates on a pro bono basis and pairs volunteer law students and faculty members with veterans applying for disability benefits.

  
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In an article on The Huffington Post, one veteran who has been helped by the program was Dustin Allison, a veteran injured in 2007 from an improvised explosive device, who now suffers from chronic dizziness and vertigo. Like many other injured military members, Allison had a difficult time navigating the claims process on his own. The Veteran’s Association puts the burden of proof on veterans applying for benefits to prove the legitimacy of their injuries, and for psychological or more “subjective” illnesses like PTSD and vertigo, these can be difficult to prove. Allison noted that it was not until his claim was submitted with the help of the William & Mary Law School clinic that his benefits were finally approved.

Efforts have begun to create similar clinics at other law schools across the country. The hope is that by getting law students involved, a significant number of backlogged cases can finally be dealt with. Nearly two thirds of the veteran disability claims currently in the pipeline have been in process for over 125 days. For a budget-conscious country without extra funds to spare, using law students has become an inexpensive way to ensure that veterans do have to wait longer than necessary to have their benefits claims processed and received.

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