The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program (Pro Bono Program) was created in 1992, with a dual mission: to provide assistance to unrepresented veterans or their family members who have filed appeals at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Court); and to recruit and train attorneys in the then fledgling field of veterans’ law.
Each appellant who requests Pro Bono Program assistance receives a thorough review of his or her appeal. An appellant whose case is not accepted by the Program receives substantive legal advice about his or her case and an explanation as to why the Pro Bono Program cannot place the appeal with a volunteer attorney.
For volunteer attorneys, the Consortium teaches a one-day class in veterans law. Every attorney who receives training and accepts a case from the Consortium receives an analysis of the case prepared by the Consortium’s veterans’ law specialists. Each attorney also receives extensive research materials published by LexisNexis (including the latest version of the Veterans Benefits Manual and a CD-ROM with an on-line research capability), as well as the assignment of a mentoring attorney to provide advice and assistance during the course of the appeal.
The Pro Bono Program is governed by an Executive Board of up to seven members. Four of the members represent the Consortium partners, The American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans, the National Veterans Legal Services Program and the Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the remaining members are drawn from the private bar.
The Pro Bono Program is made up of two components – the Outreach and Education Component, which works with training and mentoring volunteer attorneys, and the Case Evaluation and Placement Component, which evaluates the cases of veterans seeking services and matches the veteran’s case with the volunteer attorneys. All Program operations are overseen by an Executive Director.
Congress created the Court in 1988, and the Court quickly realized that 80% of its appellants were proceeding without legal representation. With the approval of Congress, the Court provided a portion of its annual appropriation to the Legal Services Corporation, which sought proposals to create a program to provide pro bono representation to appellants at the Court. Four national veterans service organizations – The American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans, the National Veterans Legal Services Program, and the Paralyzed Veterans of America – formed The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program and submitted the winning proposal. The Pro Bono Program has trained attorneys and provided pro bono representation to veterans since the fall of 1992.