Boston, Massachusetts: The Providence, Rhode Island law firm of Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick is partnering with Harvard Law School’s new Veterans Legal Clinic to help address the vast unmet legal needs of veterans.
With a huge increase in recent years in the number of combat veterans, and an aging veteran population in declining health, the unmet legal needs of veterans overall are expanding dramatically. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a backlog of 600,000 benefits cases, according to the New York Times, with veterans waiting an average of 273 days before receiving disability and other benefits, and far longer if they’re applying for the first time. The VA system is complicated and can be frustrating, and for low-income veterans, especially, getting legal aid to navigate it is challenging.
The Clinic’s partnership with one of the nation’s top firms for veterans’ benefits, Chisholm, Chisholm & Kilpatrick will facilitate students’ participation in appeals before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). These veterans’ cases are referred to the Clinic through Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick’s existing pro bono program with the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), a 1.3 million member fraternal and charitable organization that provides free representation to some 200,000 veterans annually. Upon creation of the CAVC twenty-five years ago, DAV pioneered non-attorney representation of veterans before that Court. Through their unique partnership, DAV and Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick have provided pro bono representation to more than 2,000 veterans at the CAVC.
“These cases are very good teaching tools to expose students to legal issues that are rich and complex, not to mention the human dimension of the cases,” said Daniel Nagin, Harvard Law School Clinical Professor and Director of the Veterans Legal Clinic.
Through the Clinic, law students work under attorney supervision to provide pro bono representation to veterans. In addition to cases before the CAVC, the Clinic also represents veterans—and where appropriate, family members and survivors—in a variety of other case areas, including veterans benefits cases before Veterans Administration Regional Offices and the Board of Veterans’ Appeals; appeals involving Massachusetts Veterans’ Services Benefits; appeals to secure access to healthcare; discharge upgrade and correction of military records cases; and estate planning matters such as wills, trusts, advanced medical directives, and guardianships and conservatorships.
Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick attorney, Zachary M. Stolz is co-supervising Clinic students in the cases before the CAVC. “This partnership gets the students associated with a group of people that need and deserve our help,” said Stolz, an expert in CAVC appeals. “The Harvard Law Veterans Legal Clinic gives students some good experience in our federal court system, while also providing value to our clients who get top-notch law students working with them and teaming up with our attorneys.”
DAV General Counsel Christopher J. Clay expressed his organization’s support of the program noting that “the Harvard partnership with Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick will provide some of the country’s most promising future lawyers with a unique opportunity to observe and understand the complementary roles of lawyers and non-lawyers in the cradle to grave cycle of a veteran’s benefit claim.”
About Harvard Law School’s Veterans Legal Clinic
The Veterans Legal Clinic is the newest clinical program of the Legal Services Center (LSC) of Harvard Law School. Based in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, LSC originated in 1979 with a commitment to combine education and service in the study of law. Its primary purposes were, and are, to educate law students for practice and professional service in a fully functioning law office; to harness the energies and efforts of those law students to meet the legal needs of a diverse clientele; to experiment with approaches to increase access to legal services; and to study and understand the public policies and institutions that most directly affect lower income individuals and families.
About Chisholm, Chisholm & Kilpatrick, LTD
Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD is a Providence, Rhode Island, based law firm with a national practice and a national reputation, known for its ability to handle complex cases involving veterans benefits, personal injury, wrongful death lawsuits, disability insurance for both long-term disability and short-term disability, private disability insurance, ERISA claims, life insurance litigation, long term care insurance claims and litigation, commercial and contract disputes and other areas of civil law.