If you have had a benefits claim appeal wrongly rejected by the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA), the highest administrative review authority within the VA, the next step gets much trickier. That’s because in order to appeal a BVA decision, you have to exit the VA and take it to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
If you didn’t have legal representation so far in your dealings with the VA, that might be a reason why you lost. But of course, not everyone can afford an attorney. The less able you are to afford an attorney, the more important that benefits claim is going to be for you.
That’s where the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program comes in. If you meet the program’s financial guidelines for eligibility, and if they think your case has merit, you may be able to qualify for free representation from a volunteer attorney.
You may be eligible for free representation if you meet all of these criteria:
- • You are a veteran (or qualifying family member of a veteran)
- • You have received an adverse decision from the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA);
- • You have appealed that BVA decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (the Court);
- • You do not have an attorney to help you;
- • You ask us for our assistance and you meet our program’s financial eligibility guidelines; AND
- • We can identify at least one meritorious issue to be argued before the Court
The published financial guidelines for eligibility require that you and your dependents must live on an income of less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, based on “current employment income.”
To apply, fill out this document. Then send it to:
The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program
2101 L Street NW, Suite 420
Washington, DC 20037
F: (202) 628-8169
To contact the organization by phone, dial:
P: 888 838-7727 (toll free)
P: 202 628-8164
While originally funded by a 1991 federal grant to the American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, the National Veterans Legal Services Program and Disabled American Veterans, the program continues to run on the generous time donated by participating attorneys, as well as on donations from the public. If you are in a position to donate to the program, visit this page. You can donate via PayPal (see the site,) and if you participate in the Combined Federal Campaign Program, you can route donations to the Veterans Pro Bono Consortium using the ID code CFC 95004
If you are an attorney and you wish to donate time to represent a needy veteran, you will receive a day’s worth of training on veteran’s law and procedures from the Consortium. In addition, you’ll receive a detailed practice manual to walk you through the issues and procedures.
According to the organization, volunteering with this program is one of the few ways an attorney can gain appellate litigation experience doing pro bono work. It is also a potential opportunity for an attorney to make an impact on case law, since many of the issues that come up have not yet been decided by previous courts.
Cases are prescreened for merit, so you shouldn’t be wasting time on cases destined to lose. The organization also stands ready to assist participating volunteer attorneys. Cases will come to you with a memorandum from the Consortium outlining the legal issues they have identified already, so you don’t have to spend time reinventing the wheel researching relevant law and precedent.
The organization also provides malpractice insurance.
You may also qualify for CLE credits in some states.
Thus far, approximately 2,800 attorneys have gone through the training program, and they have litigated a little over 3,600 cases.