On Tuesday, June 2, the Veterans Legal Clinic of the Legal Services Center launched the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership. Through the program, the clinic will refer cases, offer trainings, and provide ongoing support to local attorneys who agree to provide pro bono representation to veterans discharged less-than-honorably in petitions to upgrade their discharge statuses. Having a less-than-honorable discharge can prevent a former servicemember from accessing care and treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs and impede efforts toward stable employment, education, and housing.
The Partnership kicked off with a half-day training at the Boston Bar Association, where attorneys learned about military law and culture, the review boards, and service-related medical diagnoses and treatment, among other topics. In addition to Veterans Legal Clinic attorneys Daniel Nagin, Betsy Gwin, and Dana Montalto, presenters included Susan Lynch, an attorney and Major in the Judge Advocate General Corps of the U.S. Army Reserves, and Dr. Sandra Dixon, a core faculty member of William James College who teaches about trauma and meeting the needs of returning veterans. In attendance were more than two dozen attorneys, including solo practitioners, public-interest lawyers, and members of some of Boston’s leading law firms.
Hundreds of thousands of servicemembers were separated with less-than-fully-Honorable discharges in the past decades, including more than 200,000 in the Post-9/11 Era. Despite the availability of a legal remedy and a demand for legal assistance, very few attorneys offer representation to former servicemembers before the records correction boards and even fewer provide pro bono representation to low-income veterans. The mission of the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership is to close that gap by providing attorneys interested in assisting those who have worn the uniform with the skills and resources necessary to represent them.
Attorneys who are interested in joining the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership should contact Dana Montalto at dmontalto [at] law.harvard.edu.