Veterans Legal Services Clinic
There are approximately 250,000 veterans currently residing in Connecticut, many with acute and unique legal needs related to their military service or return to civilian life. In this clinic, established in 2010, students have represented Connecticut veterans in litigation before administrative agencies and courts, on benefits, discharge upgrade, immigration, and pardon matters. In addition, students represent local and national organizations in non-litigation matters relating to the legal needs of veterans, including regulatory and legislative reform efforts, media advocacy, strategic planning, and other matters.
Clinic students also provide advice and conduct some intake at the New Haven Vet Center, which offers a range of counseling and other services particularly to combat veterans. The clinic makes special efforts to assist vulnerable veteran populations and those least connected to existing service networks, such as women, recently returned, non-citizen, LGBT, and elderly veterans. The seminar portion is a practice-oriented examination of advocacy on behalf of veterans and of social justice lawyering generally.
Among the matters on the VLSC docket:
- Successful representation of widow of Navy veteran seeking VA benefits following death of husband from MDS/AML, a leukemia not presently designated as presumptively attributable to his exposure to Agent Orange.
- On behalf of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, research and drafting of S.B. 114, An Act Concerning Pretrial Diversionary Programs. The bill to expand access for veterans to several of the state’s diversionary programs was passed by the Connecticut General Assembly and officially signed by Gov. Dannel Malloy on May 31, 2012. Connecticut Pub. Act. No. 12-42 took effect on October 1, 2012.
- Successful representation of a Vietnam veteran in his appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims for review of the denial of his claim for VA benefits based on hearing loss and tinnitus caused by his service on an Air Force base.
- Successful representation of a veteran in her initial claim for disability compensation based on PTSD caused by her rape by another service-member.
- Representation of a Jamaican national veteran, in her application to the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Parole to expunge her criminal convictions and to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service to naturalize as a U.S. citizen.
- Representation of combat veterans in their applications to upgrade their military discharges, in administrative applications to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records, Board for Correction of Naval Records, and U.S. District Court.
- Representation of a disabled Navy veteran denied spousal benefits for her same-sex partner.
- Representation of Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) in its campaign to persuade the Department of Defense more forcefully to address military sexual trauma (MST) within the ranks, including researching and writing forthcoming policy paper, drafting federal legislation to improve compensation for victims of MST, and representation in two Freedom of Information Act lawsuits in U.S. District Court seeking DoD and VA records related to MST.
- Representation of Vietnam Veterans of America in its campaign to end the military’s unlawful discharge of service members on the alleged grounds of a personality or adjustment disorder and to obtain redress for the 31,000 men and women separated since 2001 on this basis, including drafting federal legislation and proposed regulations to mandate review of recent personality-disorder discharges, litigation of two Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, and publication of a white paper.
- Representation of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center in a statewide survey and needs assessment, development of training materials on discharge upgrades, and evaluation of prospects for state legislation regarding sentencing reforms for veterans convicted of certain criminal offenses.