There are a few ways in which you can volunteer your time with SWAN’s Pro Bono Program. We most often assist clients with three areas of law: Military Grievances, Military Discharge Upgrades and Record Corrections, and VA disability compensation claims.

It is not uncommon for service members complaining of sexual harassment or assault to experience retaliation and other adverse personnel actions. Under federal law, military personnel who have experienced discrimination are guaranteed a fair and thorough investigation, the right to present evidence in support or defense of allegations, and protection from retaliation. In the event of error or injustice, service members may seek redress from the Boards for the Correction of Military Records, an administrative body authorized to grant such relief as reinstatement, promotion, and back-pay.

In addition, many veterans are discharged from service with a less than fully honorable discharge or with adverse personnel actions in their records, which can prevent them from securing various benefits. By assisting a veteran to upgrade an unfavorable discharge or correct an adverse personnel record, you can potentially help a veteran gain access to much needed benefits.

Finally, not even veterans with unblemished records are automatically awarded benefits for disabilities that they incurred in service. Through our Pro Bono Program, you can help a veteran gather the necessary evidence and substantiate a successful claim for disability benefits.

By signing up with our program you will have the opportunity to assist clients in any or all of these areas. Moreover, clients present to us in various stages of their claim development; therefore, we have a variety of interventions available for attorneys. Below are the most typical types of cases referred to volunteer attorneys:

 

Military Grievances Discharge Upgrade / Record Correction VA Disability Claims
  1. Records Review (10 – 20 hrs.)
  2. Development of Application (10 – 20 hrs.)
  3. Appeal (Rare – please ask)
  1. Records Review (10 – 20 hrs.)
  2. Development of Application (10 – 20 hrs.)
  3. Appeal (Rare – please ask)
  1. Records Review (10 – 20 hrs.)
  2. Initial Claim Development and Application (10 – 20 hrs.)
  3. Appeal (10 – 20 hrs.)

 

To represent claimants before the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), you will first have to seek accreditation with the agency. To do so, you must complete and submit to the VA’s Office of General Counsel VA Form 21a, located at www.va.gov/OGC/docs/Accred/VA21a.pdf. Please look to the Office of the General Counsel’s website for more information on this process: www.va.gov/ogc/accred_faqs.asp.

Once you are signed-up with our Pro Bono Program you will periodically receive an email with a list of clients in need of assistance. This list will include a brief summary of each client’s case. Clients will be assigned to attorneys on a first-come, first-served basis. If you have not yet been trained in VA benefits or military grievances and discharges, please let us know; we will direct you to resources for this training. You will also be assigned a mentor who can answer questions and offer guidance.

Finally, please be aware that the VA and the different military discharge review and corrections boards are experiencing serious backlogs. It may take one to two years before a decision is reached in a particular case. Therefore, while the actual work required of you may be measured in hours, you may become the attorney of record for a case for quite some time. There is zero to minimal casework required, however, while you are awaiting a result.

If you have any questions, or require further information, please contact Rachel via email at rachel@servicewomen.org. Thank you again, and we look forward to working with you to assist servicewomen and veterans in need.