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Veterans Law Clinic Director to Participate in Live Teleconference CLE on Veterans Benefits

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Veterans Law Clinic

Widener Law School

4601 Concord Pike

Wilmington, DE 19803

(302) 477-2090

NOTE: information on this site does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Veterans Law Clinic


You Can Make a Difference in the Life of a Veteran

Two million veterans veterans have returned or are returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of the nearly 1.3 million combat veterans discharged since 2001, nearly half have filed claims for benefits with the Department of Veterans Affairs. According to a recent decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Veterans for Common Sense v Shinseki, the average processing time for these benefits claims is more than four years. Disability benefits claims, which are filed at local Regional Offices and have surged from 771,115 in 2004 to nearly 1.45 million in 2011, take on average nearly six months to adjudicate, with many taking far longer. If a veteran files a Notice of Disagreement with the Regional Office’s initial rating decision, the Regional Offices take on average 261 days to send the veteran a Statement of the Case, a necessary step before veterans can appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). Once the veteran receives a Statement of the Case and files a VA Form 9 to appeal the decision, the Regional Offices take on average 573 days to certify the appeal to the BVA. The BVA then takes on average 336 days to issue a decision, with veterans who asked for a hearing before a BVA judge waiting on average 455 days for the hearing alone. The process of obtaining VA disability benefits is labyrinthine and, for many veterans, filled with challenging delays. Whether you are a veteran, a law student, a practicing attorney, or simply someone who cares about serving those who first served us, you can help.

   Did you know?

   The Board of Veterans Appeals, composed of 64 veterans law judges and over 300 staff attorneys, issued 48,588 decisions in FY2011. The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, where three of the nine seats remain vacant, reported that its sitting judges decided more than 4,500 appeals in 2011, not including “several thousand procedural determinations and actions on Equal Access to Justice (EAJA) applications.” By these measures, the CAVC is the busiest federal court in the country.

You can make a difference. We’ve listed ways for everyone — regardless of your background, experience, or profession — to join the fight to help veterans obtain the benefits they deserve.

Student Interns

What legal services does the clinic provide? The Veterans Law Clinic at Widener Law School primarily represents veterans in filing appeals from the local VA Regional Office to the Board of Veterans Appeals, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and beyond. We also represent veterans filing discharge upgrade applications with the Board of Corrections of Military Records. In the past, we have assisted clients with Federal Tort Claims Act cases, VA and Social Security health benefits concerns, state court civil litigation, Freedom of Information Act delays, and criminal expungment issues. The Veterans Law Clinic works cooperatively with the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program, conducts CLE and advocacy training for practicing attorneys, and has partnered with other veterans clinics in filing amicus briefs on key veterans issues. In addition to representing veterans, we conduct and publish research on a number of issues, including veterans treatment courts, a growing trend within the treatment court community designed to rehabilitate rather than simply punish veterans who commit criminal offenses. Other potential areas of involvement include veterans housing and drug rehabilitation issues and class action casework.

What do students in the clinic do? Students generally enroll in the Veterans Law Clinic for six clinical credits in either the Fall or Spring semesters. If students elect, they may take the clinic for a second semester for the same or a lower number of clinical credits. Each week, students work in the clinic for 20 hours. This time includes a two-hour weekly classroom component in which students learn substantive VA law, discuss their assigned cases in a “firm-style” meeting, and practice client advocacy skills. Outside of class, students work under the direction of a Staff Attorney in representing the clients they are assigned at the beginning of the semester. Students keep track of their billable time and manage their cases using CLIO, a cloud-based client/matter management software application. Students also perform four “administrative hours” in the clinic each week to assist with answering phones, copying and filing documents, and organizing case files. Unless required to be in the clinic, students are welcome to fulfill their weekly hourly requirements at home, the school library, or another location suitable for confidential attorney-client work. The clinic welcomes both day and evening division students. Coursework materials include two volumes published by Lexis/Nexis–Veteans Benefits Manual and Veteans Laws, Rules, and Regulations–and a hand-picked selection of cases and practicum materials.

Student Volunteers

The Veterans Law Clinic could not accomplish all that it does without the support of our volunteers. Each semester, our volunteers include students, non-legal professionals, paralegals, and practicing attorneys. Each of these individuals donates their time on a pro bono basis, contributing immeasurably to needy veterans who are struggling with disabilities.

Students who are unable to take the clinic for credit can volunteer with the clinic as many or as few hours as they like. Volunteer hours may be counted toward the Pro Bono Distinction for graduation. Volunteers learn substantive veterans law, experience how a small firm operates, and, most importantly, lend a helping hand to veterans in need. To volunteer with the clinic, simply complete a volunter application below and stop by the Veterans Law Clinic!

Volunteer Form

A volunteer application form.

Volunteer Timesheet

A simple timesheet for keeping track of the hours volunteers donate to the clinic.