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Veterans Clinic provides disability legal assistance to veterans

The University of Missouri School of Law Veterans Clinic was established in 2014. It provides free legal assistance to veterans pursuing disability claims with the Veterans Administration (VA) and applying for discharge upgrades with the Department of Defense (DoD). The Clinic also hosts an annual symposium addressing significant veterans’ issues such as Post Traumatic Stress, Military Sexual Trauma, Traumatic Brain Injury, and systemic problems in the VA system. Law students in the Clinic receive invaluable practical experience by assisting in these efforts.

Since its inception, the Clinic has directly represented more than 160 veterans and assisted over 650 veterans with referrals to outside counsel or other resources. Clients have received nearly $5,000,000 in disability compensation. The Clinic also has achieved a 100 percent success rate in discharge upgrade cases. The Clinic has submitted amicus briefs in cases before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court. Amicus briefing by the Clinic has been instrumental in key decisions in favor of veterans’ rights, including the recent decision providing the full panoply of Agent Orange benefits for Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans.

Under the “Tigers for Troops” program, the Clinic conducts outreach to veterans in rural counties. Using remote technologies such as Zoom, the Clinic is able to connect and consult with rural veterans in a cost-effective and efficient manner. The Clinic has also trained over 250 attorneys to represent rural veterans in a pro bono capacity. Additionally, the Clinic has partnered with VA Healthcare and the Missouri Veterans Commission to provide healthcare enrollment and benefits information at every Tigers for Troops event. Since its kick off in February 2019, the program has reached over rural 50 counties.

The Clinic has excelled in engagement, outreach, and educational activities during the COVID-19 emergency. Using several different communication, research, document storage and legal filing technologies, the Clinic’s faculty, students and staff have continued unabated to represent veterans in VA disability compensation and discharge upgrade cases, winning several monetary victories on behalf of veterans since the emergency began. The Clinic has continued its outreach to veterans and attorneys to include conducting remote legal consultations with rural veterans and remotely hosting a national case rounds event attended by 41 attorneys from across the nation. Seamlessly adjusting to remote communications, cloud-based document creation and revision, and online classes, Clinic students have still been able to acquire the essential practical skills provided by working on cases pending before the VA, Department of Defense and Federal Appellate Courts.  During the emergency, Clinic attorneys and students have prepared and submitted superb cutting-edge legal briefs to adjudicators on behalf of veterans.

The Clinic staff is made up of two attorneys, Angela K. Drake and Brent G. Filbert, and three administrative support personnel. Professor Drake is the founder and Director of the Clinic. Professor Filbert is the Clinical Director, overseeing all aspects of the Clinic’s day-to-day operations. The Clinic is currently funded solely by private donations and grants.

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