Pockets of Need
Meeting Veterans' Legal Needs
The Virginia Bar Association veterans initiative recruits lawyer-volunteers and provides military veterans and service members with greater access to legal assistance. More than 100 veterans and families have been helped.
Several hundred attorneys have joined the Veterans Pro Bono Volunteer List, many of whom have donated their time and skills in handling cases, often involving family law, for this large segment of Virginia’s population. The result can be as deeply satisfying for you as it is for current volunteers Joelle Laszlo and Mark Villapando.
Virginia and Veterans
About 840,000 veterans call Virginia home. Nearly half of these citizens served in the Gulf War era, according to the Virginia Department of Veterans Services. Only six other states have a larger veteran population, and only three others expect veteran populations to grow through 2017.
Awareness of Veterans Issues
Since 2010, the VBA’s Veterans Issues Task Force has also arranged programs that raise awareness of veterans’ legal issues. Each year in November – Veterans Legal Services Month – the task force invites attorneys, active duty military members and special guests to honor veterans for their service.
Special campaigns have collected $44,000 that benefited Virginia college- and law school-based programs that assist service members with legal and medical needs and with claims for veterans benefits.
In 2012, the VBA partnered with Army OneSource in a legal military assistance campaign. Then-VBA President Hugh Fain encouraged members to consider joining this effort to support our military.
Leading the VBA Veterans Initiative
Lawyers Robert Barrett of Degremont Technologies and Matthew Kapinos of McGuireWoods LLP head up the veterans initiative. Both graduated from West Point. They also served as combat veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan. For their enthusiasm, loyalty and dedication to the VBA and the VBA Young Lawyers Division, they received the Emerson G. Spies Award in 2011.
History and Educational Programs
The veterans initiative began with a program at a VBA statewide meeting in January 2009. The VBA Committee on Special Issues of National & State Importance presented “A Nation in Debt: Our Obligations to Service Members Returning from Combat – Iraq, Afghanistan and Beyond.” The session spotlighted legal problems Virginians commonly face upon their return from overseas military duty. It also looked at governmental assistance.
The Veterans Issues Task Force and other VBA groups have coordinated additional educational programs. Two are listed on the VBA Online CLE catalog, available for download and MCLE credits:
"From the beginning of our involvement with the Veterans Benefits Clinic, our family's stress has decreased and since the VBC was able to get my husband permanent disability from the military, any worry over benefits will no longer be an issue. There is no way to explain how important this is to us. We are a young family who without the aid of the VBC would have had to rely solely on any income and benefits I could attain."
U.S. Army Maj. Uthlaut was part of a panel titled "Lawyers Helping Warriors: Our Obligations to Servicemembers Returning from Combat" at the 2011 VBA Summer Meeting.
A moving video about the lives touched (6:48).