The Veterans Legal Clinic–its official title in the curriculum is the Veterans Law and Disability Benefits Clinic–is made up of three collaborative projects: the Veterans Justice Project; the Estate Planning Project; and the Safety Net Project. Through these three projects, students represent veterans and their family members in a variety of case types. In all our case work, we strive to help veterans and their families attain the maximum degree of stability, dignity, and financial well being. We use creative legal strategies not just to vindicate the rights of individual veterans, but to pursue systemic reforms within the institutions and programs that are designed to support the veteran community.
Enrollment in all three projects is through the Veterans Law and Disability Benefits Clinic and Clinical Seminar. We ask enrolled students to express their preference for one of our three project areas. Students can also choose, however, to work across two projects if that option is attractive to them. We fully expect to be able to honor each student’s first preference for working in a particular project. This page is about the Veterans Justice Project. Please scroll down to learn more.
About the work of the Veterans Justice Project
In the Veterans Justice Project, students represent veterans and family members in administrative and court appeals to challenge denials of federal and state veterans benefits. To this end, students regularly practice before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The Court has a student practice rule that permits students to participate fully in appeals.
Students also represent veterans in petitions and appeals seeking an upgrade of military discharge status or correction of military records.
Through the Clinic, students have numerous lawyering opportunities, including client and witness interviewing, legal research and writing, client counseling, negotiation, motion practice, evidentiary hearings involving opening statements, witness examination, and closing arguments, and appellate oral argument.
Many of the veterans we represent have serious health issues. Some clients are older and in failing health, others are younger and have returned from recent overseas deployments with PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury as well as other injuries. Students in the Clinic have frequent opportunities to interact with medical providers and medical experts and to work on cases at the intersection of mental health and the law.
The Clinic plays a vital community role. There are approximately 400,000 veterans in Massachusetts, and a significant percentage—including far too many homeless veterans and a growing population of women veterans—lacks access to legal representation. Helping this population addresses an enormous unmet legal need and provides students a powerful opportunity to advocate for those who have served the country and fallen on hard times. Students work on compelling and timely legal issues, from compensation for military sexual trauma or Agent Orange exposure to protection of a veteran’s limited assets and access to healthcare.
We encourage you to click here to learn more about our current and recent docket in the Veterans Justice Project.
For more information about the Clinic or to ask questions, please email Clinical Professor and Clinic Director Daniel Nagin at dnagin[at]law.harvard.edu.
What Students Are Saying About Their Experiences in the Veterans Legal Clinic
• “My time with the Veterans Legal Clinic has been extremely rewarding. I have learned a great deal about how the law impacts the veteran community on a daily basis, and have honed my negotiation, advocacy, and legal writing skills. But the most gratifying aspect has been the interactions I have had with my clients. Being able to learn about their lives, to hear some of their stories, and to fight for successful outcomes in their legal cases has been one of the highlights of my time here at Harvard Law School.” – Vetan Kapoor, J.D. ’17
• “We enrolled in the Veterans Legal Clinic our first semester of 2L year, after having attended the informational session together as 1Ls. We both wanted to do legal services work during law school, learn more about litigation, and work directly with clients. The Veterans Legal Clinic was the perfect opportunity.” – Elizabeth Petow Mayo, J.D. ’17 and Maile Yeats-Rowe, J.D. ’17
• “I have had a fantastic experience working with the … Clinic …. Arguing [an appellate case in federal court] was the highlight of my experience at HLS….” – Christopher Melendez J.D. ’15
• Successfully representing my LSC client in an appeal “was unquestionably my most meaningful experience in law school.” (Spring 2015) – Kathleen Borschow, J.D. ’15
Advocacy for Veterans at LSC
The Veterans Legal Clinic is the primary vehicle through which LSC serves the legal needs of veterans. In the Veterans Legal Clinic , we represent veterans (and their survivors) in cases involving VA benefits, Massachusetts Veterans’ Services Benefits, discharge upgrades, safety net supports, and estate planning matters. The Veterans Legal Clinic, however, is not the only way LSC helps veterans who have unmet legal needs. Three other LSC projects focus extensively on representing veterans. These are:
We encourage you to click on the links for these projects to learn more about these areas of law and LSC’s commitment to meeting the legal needs of veterans.