Veterans across Illinois whose disability claims are rejected by the VA can get free legal help to file an appeal.
The help comes from the Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic, run by the John Marshall Law School. Director Brian Clauss says the organization knows how to cut through the clutter and write a successful appeal.
“When an attorney steps in to assist a vet at that appeals process, disagreeing with the VA and their denial or their percentage of rating, the attorneys step in and they really are, to use a military term, a force multiplier for that veteran,” he said.
One of the problems at the VA is a backlog of cases, Clauss says, and these appeals are written to be digested by the VA as easily as possible. Meanwhile, he credits four members of the Illinois congressional delegation who are veterans with working to shrink the backlog: U.S. Sen. Mark S. Kirk (R-Ill.), and Reps. Tammy Duckworth (D-Hoffman Estates), William L. Enyart (D-Belleville) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Manteno).
The clinic is staffed by six lawyers and 25 law students in Chicago, and they’ve trained 400 volunteer lawyers around the state. They get 1,000 inquiries a year, and 400 become active appeals.
Some of the inquiries involve problems unrelated to the VA, such as a veteran getting his or her job back after a National Guard deployment. The clinic doesn’t handle those directly, but will refer veterans to a lawyer who will.
The clinic can be found at 312-427-2737 or at www.jmls.edu/veterans. Applicants need not visit the office at 19 W. Jackson Blvd. in Chicago, although they are welcome to, but for Downstate residents, they can often be directed to a nearby lawyer who will help them, or the matter will be handled over the phone and in writing.