Last week we saw many celebrations and ceremonies to honor our veterans and those currently serving in our military. I had the pleasure to participate in the Cicero American Legion’s open house on Veterans Day and was honored to speak with many local veterans. They have done so much for us and deserve our respect and support.
Our government responsibly provides benefits for our veterans but, unfortunately, what goes unnoticed are the challenges that veterans face upon discharge, navigating through complex legal issues to get their entitled benefits. Compounding the issue is the fact that there are only a few hundred attorneys in the country who are familiar with the complex issues that confront veterans, as federal law prohibits attorneys from receiving compensation on cases prior to an appeal. To address this, I worked with several other legislators earlier this year to investigate the establishment of a legal clinic to help veterans receive entitled benefits.
From that assessment, I co-sponsored an amendment to the county budget to provide funding of $50,000 for 2015 in a joint effort with my alma mater, Syracuse University, to establish a Veterans Legal Clinic. This will be a first in New York State, a comprehensive facility to help veterans with legal issues, provided at no cost to the veteran. This will ensure that legal assistance is available to our veterans, and no one is more deserving.
The clinic will open in January, taking cases for veterans to help them navigate through a variety of issues pertaining to them, such as dealing with the complexities of the VA health care system. Other topics where the clinic will assist are:
- Assist with VA claims (so veterans can receive benefits in less time).
- Represent veterans in VA claim appeals (when an attorney is not there to assist a veteran claims are remanded 82% of the time, causing further delay).
- Help veterans upgrade discharges (without attorney assistance fewer than 20% of claims are upgraded).
- Give priority status and even help with housing issues.
This is a major achievement for our veterans and I’m proud to have been a part of it. Please share this with any veterans you know so they can enjoy this service. If you have any questions about the program and desire information on how the clinic could help you please visit: https://law.syr.edu/academics/clinical-experiential/clinical-legal-education/veterans-legal-clinic/ or contact me anytime at 699-9585 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.