Veterans’ Law Project
The Veterans Law Project (VLP) provides quality and individualized pro bono legal assistance to American military veterans and their spouses in the Philadelphia area and beyond. Through the VLP, Penn Law students join law students from nearby schools and conscientious attorneys in the community to provide critical support to the Military Assistance Project (MAP), a non-profit organization comprised of civilian attorneys dedicated to serving those who gave so much for our country.
VLP volunteers have the option to work in either the Bankruptcy or Veterans Benefits practices. Every case is different in terms of the scope and depth of assistance that is necessary, exposing volunteers to a wide breadth of work in either practice. Students gain extensive hands-on experience by overseeing files from start to finish while positively impacting lives in the process.
In Bankruptcy cases, students work with veterans who, for a multitude of reasons, have fallen into financial trouble. Students provide guidance to the veteran applicants in conducting a detailed accounting of their finances, in filing a Chapter 7 petition, and in planning for financial stability in the future. Bankruptcy volunteers conduct client interviews, coordinate and attend a Meeting of Creditors, and often work as a team to see these cases through to fruition.
In the Veterans Benefits practice, students assist veterans in filing for an upgrade to the characterization of their discharge from military service or in filing an appeal to a decision of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In discharge upgrade cases, students help veterans provide, to their branch of military service, justifications for why their discharge rating was inequitable. Such reasons might include having undiagnosed Post-Traumatic Stress issues or violations of the now-repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy. In VA appeal cases, students guide veterans in reviewing their service documents and in articulating why a previous determination was factually or legally incorrect. These cases often revolve around disability ratings and monetary compensation.
In either practice area, VLP volunteers gain a great sense of satisfaction by helping veterans transition to civilian life, get their lives back in order, and/or receive the compensation they earned but never received. Formerly known as the Servicemembers and Veterans Legal Assistance Project from its founding in 2011, this student-led organization is a great opportunity for students to provide practical and targeted pro bono assistance to an underserved population. We, at the VLP, take great pride in aiding those who answered our country’s’ call, and there is no greater reward than seeing the significant, often life-changing impact our work has on the lives of veterans.