On Veterans Day, Wednesday, November 11th, Widener Law’s Delaware campus hosted the Basic Veterans Law continuing legal education conference to educate attorneys interested in becoming veterans’ advocates. The event was also broadcast to the Harrisburg campus.
The day opened with registration and a continental breakfast before Taishoff Professor of Law Thomas J. Reed
, the director of Widener’s Veterans Law Clinic
offered a short introduction welcoming those in attendance. He emphasized the need for more attorneys willing to represent veterans in need of legal assistance.
Craig Martin, Esq., an associate at Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP in Wilmington, Del. and chair of the Delaware State Bar Association Veterans Law Committee kicked of the program with an overview of the Veterans Affairs claim process. Noting the importance of a veteran’s discharge status, Mr. Martin emphasized, “Discharge status is the key to the initial filing.” Discussing the necessary forms, Professor Reed dryly noted, “When you’ve got a ten page form, you’ve got fourteen pages of instructions. They’re trying to make it simple for you.”
Following the discussion of the claims process and the differences between the compensation system and the pension system, Douglas J. Rosinski, Esq. of Ogletree Deakins in Columbia, S.C. and an adjunct professor and former director of the Veterans Clinic at the University of South Carolina School of Law, spoke about the basics of veterans law, noting that the most important thing was to establish a connection between a veterans service and his or her disability. “Service connection is at the heart of the vast majority of veterans’ benefits adjudications.” The morning concluded with Professor Reed addressing appeals to the Board of Veterans Appeals.
Current director of the Veterans Clinic at the University of South Carolina School of Law Rebecca C. Patrick, Esq., a former member of the U.S. Air Force JAG corps, spoke in the afternoon about appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The other afternoon sessions included a discussion of attorney fees by Mr. Rosinski and a presentation on “Ethics and the VA System” by Widener Law Professor John F. Nivala
, the director of Widener Law’s Taishoff Advocacy, Technology and Public Service Institute
Among the first law schools in the United States to start a clinical program for disabled veterans, Widener Law’s program began in 1997 as the Veterans Assistance Program, co-sponsored by the pro bono arm of the Delaware State Bar Association. The program became known as the Veterans Law Clinic in January 2006 and has expanded to include additional offices in Harrisburg, Pa. and Media, Pa.