Tuesday, April 19, 2011

CT Legal Groups Team Up to Help Veterans Receive Benefits

For the first time in Connecticut’s history, the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC), the Veterans Legal Services Clinic, and the Connecticut Bar Association (CBA) will train volunteer lawyers and other advocates to help veterans apply for discharge upgrades.  The training will take place on Weds., April 27 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Yale Law School.

Most of Connecticut’s 250,000 service members received an “honorable” discharge when they left the military.  Many veterans in the state, however, received a less than honorable discharge, which can prevent them from obtaining educational, medical or pension benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and limit their civilian employment opportunities.  Post-traumatic stress disorder or other service-related injuries may have led to the unfavorable discharge.  As a result, many otherwise deserving veterans are ineligible for the very benefits that would help them cope with their in-service trauma.

“We created this training because veterans were calling us for help and we had nowhere to send them,” said CVLC Executive Director Margaret Middleton.  “Decorated Vietnam-era combat veterans who are still suffering from PTSD have asked us for help because they received less thanhonorable discharges for impulsive acts that were likely the symptom of a mental health issue that wasn’t well understood at the time. We’ve heard similar stories from Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.”

Veterans can upgrade their discharge status through administrative procedures established by the service branches and in federal court.  However, these administrative and judicial processes are complicated and time-consuming for many veterans.  Fortunately, lawyers or other trained advocates can help veterans apply for discharge upgrades and receive critical services.  This training will increase the number of Connecticut lawyers available to assist veterans in such cases.

“Yale law students have taken on a number of cases, but our resources are inadequate to meet the needs of all Connecticut veterans,” said Yale Law School Clinical Professor of Law Michael Wishnie.  “By offering a training program with CVLC and the Connecticut Bar Association, more attorneys will assist more veterans in these vitally important cases.”

Instructors will include Ms. Middleton, Professor Wishnie, and Eugene Fidell, a national military law expert and Florence Rogatz Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School.

The Connecticut Bar Association is a membership organization of Connecticut attorneys working to advance the principles of justice, the practice of law and the public understanding of the law (https://www.ctbar.org).

Connecticut Veterans Legal Center is a nonprofit organization that helps homeless and mentally ill military veterans build stable and independent lives by resolving their legal issues and helping them secure the educational, medical and pension benefits they have earned (http://ctveteranslegal.org/).

The Veterans Legal Services Clinic is a part of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School. Clinic students working under the supervision of clinical faculty represent veterans without charge in matters related to their military service or return to civilian life (http://www.law.yale.edu/academics/veteranslegalservicesclinic.htm).

For more info contact: 

Tom Ciuba, Public Relations Specialist
(860) 612-2028

Margaret Middleton
Executive Director, The Connecticut Veterans Legal Center


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Howard M. Cohn & Associates said...

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.