The Board of Veterans’ Appeals denies a soldier’s claim for disability benefits for an injury to his lower extremities. But the decision is handed down while the soldier is serving in Afghanistan, and he doesn’t realize he has the right to appeal until after he returns from his deployment—after the appeal deadline has passed.
For students in HLS’s new Veterans Legal Clinic, the chance to argue that the appeal deadline should have been tolled and the case allowed to proceed on the merits is proving invaluable educationally and personally.
“As law students, we like to think of law as this just machine that works properly, but when you’re introduced to a case like this, it blows your mind,” says Abigail Dwyer ’13, who’s interviewed the client and his wife, and has assisted in drafting a 20-page brief on his behalf. “It’s great to get out of the classroom and do something to help someone deserving.”
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 exploding. 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.
Read the full article on the Harvard Law School website.