Nearly half of the 20 million veterans in the United States use at least one government benefit or service offered by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (commonly known as the “VA”). Many of these veterans have developed mental and physical disabilities related to their service, and are entitled to compensation.
Next week, Proskauer will headline the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Veterans Legal Services Project (VLSP) clinic. Proskauer attorneys sponsor the clinic every November – but this year’s clinic will be very different. The VLSP clinic has adjusted to the realities of 2020 and, in doing so, has found new ways to improve its services to veterans. For many veterans, the transition back to civilian life is challenging, and the unique difficulties posed by the COVID-19 public health crisis has had a tremendous impact on the ability to find legal representation and other crucial services.
The VLSP clinic focuses on providing advice to homeless and at-risk veterans regarding record expungements, as well as outstanding tickets and warrants. Attorneys attending the clinic perform interviews and intakes for the clinic, and provide referrals to the attending veterans.
Through Proskauer’s partnership with the City Bar Justice Center and Lawyers for Good Government, we helped launch the nationwide COVID-19 Small Business Remote Legal Clinic to consult with small businesses across a range of pressing issues: contracts & force majeure, leases, insurance, and, of course, the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. One of the most active areas for the legal clinic has been labor & employment issues as entrepreneurs fight to keep their employees, balance their checkbooks, and abide by laws that seem to change by the week.
To train other participating firms and volunteers, a Proskauer team consisting of labor & employment partners Lloyd Chinn, Patrick Lamparello, and Nicole Eichberger and associates Caralyn Olie and Dominique Kilmartin, produced a webinar on the most important labor and employment law considerations for New York small businesses.
Every November as Veterans Day approaches, Proskauer honors the service of our active military, veterans and their families. As part of our efforts, the Firm had the privilege of hosting a panel discussion on some of the most pressing issues that veterans and their families currently face. We were honored to be joined by Wanda Montalvo, PhD, RN, Executive Director of Jonas Nursing & Veterans Healthcare (JNVH) at Columbia University, and Timothy Cochrane, SVP of Business Development at American Corporate Partners (ACP), whose work is on the frontlines of veterans’ healthcare and post-service employment.
Under Dr. Montalvo and the Board of Directors’ leadership, JNVH connects some of the country’s most prominent advocates for healthcare investment with leaders, innovators and experts from the worlds of business, philanthropy and education. Since 2008, Jonas Philanthropies has awarded $25 million in scholarships to support more than 1,250 doctoral nursing scholars at 157 universities in all 50 states. Approximately 330 of these scholars are focused on advancing veterans’ healthcare.
On October 22nd, Proskauer associates Dan Nelson and Jin Joo received the New York City Bar Justice Center’s 2018 Jeremy G. Epstein Award for Pro Bono Service. Since November 2017, Dan and Jin have coordinated Proskauer’s involvement in the Justice Center’s Veterans Assistance Project (VAP). These two are no strangers to public service. In addition to their current pro bono work, they both previously served with distinction in the military. Dan served in the U.S. Army infantry from 2000 to 2008, during which time he deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan; and Jin served in the U.S. Air Force as a communications officer for four years, and was deployed to Iraq in 2005.
Through VAP we provide veterans with legal assistance on claims for compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The veterans we assist have disabilities arising from injuries sustained during their time in service, and are of limited means. These pro bono matters are important and impactful. At the firm, these are among the most popular cases to take, due to the challenging and fulfilling nature of the work. Proskauer’s involvement in VAP has grown rapidly thanks in large part to a successful partnership with Bloomberg L.P.’s legal department. We have represented a total of 45 veteran clients thus far with the help of approximately 30 Bloomberg and 70 Proskauer lawyers, paralegals and staff.
As part of Proskauer’s collaboration with the New York City Bar Justice Center, I recently had the honor of assisting an Army veteran in his claim for disability benefits before the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) alongside Alex Hill, Karen Levya-Drivin and Paul Ramundo from Bloomberg LP.
Injured while on active service overseas, the veteran sustained debilitating injuries that were controllable by medication, which he would have to continue taking for the rest of his life. When he returned home, he had a difficult time supporting himself as a result of his injury. He applied for disability benefits at the VA four times, but each time his claim was rejected, either for insufficient documentation or based on the VA policy applicable to his type of injury. In each case, the explanation from the VA was brief, and he did not understand why he kept getting turned down.
The Veterans Assistance Project at the City Bar Justice Center (the pro bono arm of the New York City Bar Association) connects lawyers with veterans living on or below the poverty line. It helps veterans with their disability claims and appeals to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Proskauer organized a small group of volunteers in October 2015 to attend an intake clinic at the City Bar, working in pairs to represent a veteran in need. Our effort has since evolved to include more than 90 from both Proskauer and our project partner Bloomberg LP.
In recognition of our contribution, Proskauer and Bloomberg LP were honored with a City Bar Justice Award at the City Bar Justice Center’s Annual Gala in April 2017. We were noted for our leadership and dedication to pro bono and public service, and for joining forces in an effort to help veterans obtain disability benefits from the VA. Proskauer is proud to have dedicated more than 1,500 pro bono hours to these cases.
Kevin Hackett, a corporate partner and veteran himself, spearheaded this volunteer effort. He had the following to say about this project and its great impact.