View the“Pro Bono” issue of Communiqué* (December 2019), the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association. See features written by members of Nevada’s legal community listed as follows:
- “Pro Bono Opportunities to Assist Veterans” by John M. Naylor, Esq.
- “Summaries from 10-24-19” by Joe Tommasino
Additional content may be found in the full color issue of the publication (print and PDF versions), including:
- “Clark County Bar President’s Message: A Final Farewell (and tales of the Poltergeist Podium)” by Clark County Bar President Jason P. Stoffel
- View from the Bench: “Criminal settlement conferences rolled out in district court as an effective way to resolve cases” by Chief Judge Linda Marie Bell
- “UNLV Law Corner: The Public Interest Law Association’s Commitment to Service” by Aden Kebede and Megan Ortiz
- “Pro Bono for the Holidays by Patricia Lee, Esq.
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© 2019 The content on this page was originally published in COMMUNIQUÉ*, the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association. (December 2019). All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this content, contact the publisher Clark County Bar Association, 717 S. 8th Street, Las Vegas, NV 89101. Phone: (702) 387-6011.
Pro Bono Opportunities to Assist Veterans
By John M. Naylor, Esq.
According to the Housing Assistance Counsel, Nevada has 216,275 veterans of whom 7.6 percent live in poverty, and their unemployment rate is 8.4 percent. Many need help navigating the legal system, and there are programs available for attorneys to assist those veterans in need.
Ways to help in Nevada
The Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada (“LACSN”) works with the Nevada Attorney General’s Office of Military Legal Assistance (“OMLA”) to provide assistance to Nevada veterans.
LACSN waives its income requirements for active duty members and veterans. LACSN provides its full complement of services as well as training for attorneys who wish to volunteer for pro bono representation. Attorneys can find more information on LACSN’s website at www.lacsn.org.
LACSN works with OMLA, which provides pro bono legal assistance to active duty, reserve, and National Guard service members in a wide variety of matters, including civil disputes among private parties, and helps with state agency claims (e.g., claims relating to unemployment benefits). The OMLA’s website is http://nvagomla.nv.gov, and enrolling as one of its pro bono attorneys is simple. The head of the office is Mr. Nicolo “Nick” Danna, and he can be reached at 775-684-1100. The OMLA is always interested in talking to attorneys who are looking to help the community.
One of the biggest needs is assistance with claiming healthcare benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (the “VA”). To claim healthcare benefits, the veteran must show that his or her medical condition is “service connected,” meaning that it somehow is related to his or her time in the military. According to the VA’s website, there are currently 367,498 pending claims, with a backlog of 73,019 claims. (See www.benefits.va.gov/reports/detailed_claims_data.asp, accessed November 4, 2019).
The veterans need help documenting their claims and making sure that the strongest case is presented to the VA. While this is some of the most satisfying and helpful work that you can do for a veteran, it is not the easiest. Unfortunately, your law license alone will not legally allow you to assist a veteran with a claim at this stage. You need to be accredited by the VA, and the process consists of completing a short form and providing references. Sometimes, the tricky part of the process is getting the VA to confirm receipt of your application and making sure they act on it. The Office of the General Counsel of the VA administers the process, and information is available on its webpage at www.va.gov/ogc/accreditation.asp.
The VA will make a determination on the claim, and the veteran can appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (the “BVA”). The BVA will conduct a hearing before an administrative law judge, which is where the veteran really needs help. This hearing is essentially the last chance for a veteran to build a record for further appeals. Many times, the veteran is either unrepresented or assisted by volunteers who are accredited but not attorneys. While these people do a great job, an attorney with experience building a record is, in some cases, much more helpful.
The BVA will make a decision, and if the veteran does not agree, he or she can appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (the “CAVC”). The CAVC is an Article I court that functions like a circuit court of appeals. An attorney’s law license is sufficient here, meaning that the attorney does not need to be accredited by the VA to practice before it. Here, the appeal proceeds like a regular circuit court of appeal, meaning that there is a mandatory settlement conference, opening brief, answering brief, and reply brief. Typically, there is no oral argument. Thus, the importance of building the record at the BVA is critical for an appeal.
The primary organization for pro bono attorneys practicing before the CAVC is the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program, (the “Veterans Consortium”), and its website is www.vetsprobono.org. The Veterans Consortium provides free training procedures to attorneys wishing to sign up for pro bono work and will assign the appointed attorney a mentoring attorney to assist. The Veterans Consortium also prescreens appeals before appointing counsel to determine whether there is a viable, appealable issue.
There are a lot of veterans in Nevada, and there are a lot of avenues for attorneys to help. I encourage attorneys to do their part and assist Nevada veterans.
John M. Naylor, Esq. has been licensed for 30 years and is a cofounder of Naylor & Braster, a Las Vegas law firm specializing in business litigation. Prior to founding the firm, he was a partner at Lionel Sawyer & Collins. Between 1995 and 1999, he was a judge advocate in the U.S. Air Force. He specialized in criminal prosecution and defense matters as well as representing the Air Force in contract disputes before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals.
Communiqué is published eleven times per year with an issue published monthly except for July by the Clark County Bar Association, P.O. Box 657, Las Vegas, NV 89125-0657. Phone: (702) 387-6011.
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