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M-VETS Recognized by Stetson Veterans Advocacy Clinic

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The Antonin Scalia Law School Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (“M-VETS”) was recognized in an article published by WUSF for their legal work for the military and veteran community.  The Stetson Veterans Advocacy Clinic Director, Professor Stacey-Rae Simcox, recognized the valuable legal assistance provided by M-VETS to active-duty personnel and veterans in a statement discussing the current formation of the National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium which is aimed at bringing together law schools with veterans legal clinics to form a more cohesive and influential voice involving veterans legal issues.

M-VETS Director, Timothy M. MacArthur, discussed M-VETS participation in the Consortium.  “We are a member of the National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium and the formation of the Consortium is a giant step in the right direction in assisting veterans with navigating the often difficult Veterans Affairs disability and compensation process, as well as, providing easier access to additional legal services.”  MacArthur said.  “The wait times for initial disability ratings and appeals are long and we have found through our work with veterans that there is a growing sense of frustration within this community towards the organization whose sole mission is to care for those who have served our country in the Military Forces.  I believe the Consortium will be able to advocate for better policies within the VA, connect veterans with the legal services they require, and inspire the creation of veterans legal clinics among the law schools which do not currently have them as part of their operations.”

The mission of M-VETS is to provide free representation to active-duty members of the armed forces, veterans, and their families while offering law students the opportunity to receive supervised, practical legal experience by advocating for those who serve or have served in our United States armed forces.  M-VETS will continue to conduct outreach and provide information regarding the Scalia Law School to active-duty members of the armed forces, their families, and veterans while coordinating with the Consortium to ensure that no veteran is left behind.  Please keep visiting our webpage to keep updated on future developments.  The WUSF article can be read thru the link provided below.

http://wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu/post/law-schools-students-join-forces-veterans#stream/0

M-VETS Student Advisors Participate in the National Veterans Law Moot Court Competition
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For the first time in program history, two Student Advisors with The Antonin Scalia Law School Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (“M-VETS”) participated in the 2016 National Veterans Law Moot Court Competition at the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C.  Matthew McIntee and Rodger Nayak, third year law students at Scalia Law School and first semester Student Advisors with the M-VETS program, entered the competition in September 2016 and worked for two months to prepare a brief in support of the hypothetical Respondent and prepared to argue both sides of the appeal during oral argument at the competition taking place on November 5-6, 2016.

This year’s case dealt with an appeal before the United States Supreme Court pertaining to the VA’s authority to administer medical marijuana to patients.  Specifically, the teams were asked to analyze whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims has the authority to review the validity of laws and regulations listing marijuana as a Schedule I drug for purposes of the Controlled Substances Act and whether the VA’s failure to administer medical marijuana constitutes “carelessness, negligence, lack of proper skill, error in judgment, or similar instance of fault” for purposes of 38 U.S.C. § 1151.

This year’s competition was one of the largest in history with 24 teams competing from 17 law schools, including M-VETS’s first ever appearance in the competition.   Despite an outstanding effort by the M-VETS team, Baylor Law School took home top honors in the competition. Regarding the experience, Student Advisor Rodger Nayak stated “in researching our brief and preparing for oral arguments, Matt and I learned the principles, policies, and history of Veterans benefits law. The U.S. has an administrative agency, federal court, and body of case law devoted solely to veterans benefits determinations.  Our greater knowledge of this complex area of law, combined with the feedback that the judges at the competition provided us, has helped me and Matt become better advocates for Veterans seeking benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.”  Student Advisor Matt McIntee echoed this statement and provided “the Veteran’s Moot Court Competition at GW Law was a great opportunity to dive headfirst into a unique, but exceptionally important area of the law. It not only afforded students the chance to hone their brief writing and oral argument skills, but it also helped raise awareness about a growing area of the law that needs solid attorneys.”

M-VETS Director, Timothy MacArthur, indicated that both Student Advisors dedicated a significant amount of time and effort to the brief and oral arguments stating “Matt and Rodger did a great job during the entirety of this competition.  This was the first time Scalia Law School participated in this event and we hope to keep sending Student Advisors to this competition in the future.  The oral arguments were a very valuable learning experience as the moot court judges were litigators in the area of Veterans Law.  This type of competition furthers the goals of inspiring public service in this area of law and provides a practical exercise for experience.  Also, M-VETS would like to personally thank Adjunct Professor Brandy Wagstaff who volunteered her time and substantial moot court experience to get Matt and Rodger ready for this competition.”

How – and why – a law school veterans clinic works

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The Antonin Scalia Law School Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (“M-VETS”) recently contributed to the ABA Law Student Division Before the Bar blog.  The Before the Bar blog connects students to information on careers and topics within the legal field and spotlights projects that are going on at law schools.  One of these areas, legal services for Veterans, is the special focus for the ABA Pro Bono week taking place from 23-29 OCT 2016.  At the annual ABA meeting in August, ABA President Linda Klein launched a Veterans Legal Services Initiative focused on providing a major effort to mobilize lawyers on behalf of enhanced legal services for the nation’s veterans.

M-VETS Student-Advisors Rebecca Eubank and Michael West answered the call of President Klein through their enrollment in M-VETS and represented Scalia Law School and the M-VETS program by contributing an article to the Before the Bar blog detailing the M-VETS program, their experience as student-advisors in the M-VETS clinic and working directly with Veterans, Servicemembers and their dependents.  Ms. Eubank states “the best part of taking part in a clinic is the practical experience you gain and the opportunity to work directly with Veterans, Servicemembers and their dependents.  A clinic experience reflects life in a real law practice where you may or may not know much about a specific area of law before you’re assigned to a case. In a class, you might sit there for a semester pouring through property law and trying to commit as much of it as you can to memory. After assisting a veteran in one landlord tenant matter, you’ll probably remember the steps required for a landlord to evict a tenant much better when the bar exam rolls around.” Mr. West echoes this statement and adds “M-VETS gives us the opportunity to develop our law practice skills by providing us with a hands-on educational experience and the opportunity to gain real-world legal experience as if we worked in a real law firm.   The director and staff attorney give us leeway in how we want to operate our clinic.  The experience has been great thus far.   The learning curve was steep at first, but once we were over the hump, it has become an extremely satisfying experience.”

The article highlights the fact that M-VETS is dedicated to the mission of providing active-duty members of the armed forces, their families and Veterans with free legal representation in matters of clear injustice or in which they could not retain legal counsel without undue hardship.  As the first Veterans clinical program in the United States, M-VETS has served as the model for Veterans and military clinics in law schools across the country.  Managing Attorney Leigh M. Winstead praised the ABA’s decision to highlight Veterans clinics and other pro bono veterans initiatives in celebration of Pro Bono Week.  “Many of these clinics and initiatives began as a result of student-organized efforts to provide legal assistance to Veterans, Servicemembers and their families in a very nuanced and complex area of law unfamiliar to many practitioners and law students,” Winstead said.  “Their hard work and incredible results should be highlighted and praised.  It is important to spotlight the work being done in these clinics and organizations so we can educate the greater legal community about the continuing need for assistance in this area.”

The “How – and why – a law school veterans clinic works” written by Ms. Eubank and Mr. West can be read at http://abaforlawstudents.com/2016/10/25/how-and-why-a-law-school-veterans-clinic-works/

M-VETS Clinic Now Accepting Student-Advisor Applications for Spring 2017

The Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (M-VETS) will begin accepting applications for the spring 2017 semester.  Applications will be accepted until 11 November 2016, however, student-advisors will be selected on a rolling basis until enrollment is met which may occur before the 11 November 2016 deadline.  All applicants are encouraged to apply as soon as possible as interviews are scheduled in the order M-VETS receives the application.      

Application and Permission of the Director are required for registration in M-VETS.  To apply, please email an updated resume to mvets@gmu.edu and submit the Student-Advisor Online Application available at:  http://mvets.law.gmu.edu/students/.  Upon receipt and review, a brief interview will be scheduled with the Director and Managing Attorney.

M-VETS enables students to represent active-duty members of the armed forces, their families and veterans in a wide variety of civil and administrative, litigation and non-litigation matters, including consumer-protection, landlord-tenant, family law, contracts, and military and veterans law and entitlement matters.  Students are supervised by law school instructors or private practitioners with subject matter expertise, attend 2 hours of weekly classroom instruction and status meetings, and conduct an average of 6-10 hours per week (fall & spring) out-of-class casework.  Students registered for the fall or spring session of the clinic will receive three (3) total graded credits for this course, two (2) of which are “in-class” credit and one (1) of which is “out-of-class.”  M-VETS meets from 1600-1750 each Wednesday of the spring semester, student-advisors are required to complete office hours, attend director meetings and continue responsibility for the matters to which they have been assigned until the commencement of the summer 2017 semester. 

Selected student-advisors must be available for a 4 hour “boot-camp” which will take place prior to the first M-VETS class.  Although not required or dispositive, preference may be given to applicants that 1) possess or are able to obtain a Third Year Practice Certificate, and/or 2) those who have taken the course once previously or anticipate taking the course for both spring and summer semesters.  If accepted, students will be enrolled by the Records office in the course.

Please direct questions to the M-VETS Director: Timothy M. MacArthur, tmacarth@gmu.edu

M-VETS Expands its Pro Bono Practice Areas to include Expungements

The mission of the Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (“M-VETS”) is to provide active-duty members of the armed forces, their families and Veterans with free legal representation in matters of clear injustice or in which they could not retain counsel without undue hardship. M-VETS was founded in response to the legal needs of our deployed Servicemembers facing legal issues at home while protecting our country abroad.  In this sense, M-VETS’s services directly impact the readiness, quality of life, and morale of the members of our armed forces and their families.  The clinic later increased its footprint in the military community by expanding its practice area to include military law and VA matters, providing valuable representation to Veterans and their dependents which directly impacts their access to VA benefits and services.

Today, M-VETS represents clients from all five branches of the armed forces and provides the most comprehensive legal representation of any Veterans clinic in the Commonwealth of Virginia with services ranging from applications for discharge upgrades, Boards for Correction of Military Records, representation before Medical and Physical Evaluation Boards, appeals of the denial of VA disability compensation claims, requests for increased ratings decisions, and appeals to the Board of Veterans Appeals and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, to representation in the negotiation and litigation of consumer protection, family law, landlord-tenant, and contract matters in Northern Virginia courts.

M-VETS will now further expand its practice areas to include requests for expungement in Northern Virginia courts.  Please apply for expungement services online at http://mvets.law.gmu.edu/apply/applicant-intake-form-for-civil-matters/

The following links provide initial information regarding expungements in the Northern Virginia courts M-VETS will operate:

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/courts/circuit/expungement_info.htm

https://courts.arlingtonva.us/circuit-court/expungements/

http://www.pwcgov.org/government/courts/circuit/pages/expungement.aspx

https://www.loudoun.gov/index.aspx?NID=961

M-VETS Community Outreach at a Celebration for Veterans at VFW Post 3103

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The Antonin Scalia Law School Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (“M-VETS”) attended an outreach event at a “Celebration for Veterans” at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3103 in Fredericksburg, Virginia, on 15 OCT 16.  Student-Advisors Anne Kidd and C.J. Nee represented Scalia Law School and the M-VETS program by providing information to the Veteran attendees and their family members in an effort to increase awareness of the pro bono legal services M-VETS is able to provide to these Veterans and their family members.   M-VETS Director, Timothy M. MacArthur, believes outreach to organizations like the VFW is “essential in providing visibility concerning our program, services and school to this population.  This type of outreach is also valuable to the M-VETS student-advisors as they are able to gain a greater understanding of Veteran and military culture through first-hand experience.”

The event was a “Celebration for Veterans” and was attended by local businesses and State and Federal organizations.  Local businesses provided access to on-site massage therapists, cosmetic services and a free lunch provided by Olive Garden.  M-VETS was joined by the Department of Veterans Affairs mobile Vet Center which provided health screenings to veterans in attendance and Virginia Department of Veterans Services who provided literature regarding benefits for Veterans and their family members.  M-VETS Managing Attorney, Leigh M. Winstead, was in attendance on Saturday and explains “we are very grateful to the organizers of the event and the Fredericksburg VFW for hosting a great day of appreciation for our Veterans.  It was a great opportunity to not only offer our assistance to local Veterans but simply be able to thank so many Veterans in-person for their service.”

M-VETS will continue to conduct outreach and provide information regarding the Scalia Law School to active-duty members of the armed forces, their families, and veterans.  Please keep visiting our webpage to keep updated on future events.

M-VETS files Amicus Curaie brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of veterans seeking redress in medical malpractice claims against the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Antonin Scalia Law School Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (“M-VETS”) filed an Amicus Curiae brief together with the Baylor Law School Veterans’ Assistance Clinic (“Baylor Clinic”) in an effort to increase available avenues of justice for veterans seeking redress in medical malpractice claims against the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (“VA”).

M-VETS and the Baylor Clinic filed the brief in support of the petitioner in Milbauer v. United States of America, which is on petition for writ of certiorari before the United States Supreme Court.  The case will resolve a split among the United States Circuit Courts as to whether the Veterans’ Judicial Review Act (“VJRA”) bars federal districts courts from hearing VA medical negligence suits arising under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”).

The Petitioner, Richard Milbauer, brought suit against the VA after the failure of VA physicians to recommend and perform alternative diagnostic procedures rendered a treatable shoulder injury permanent.   The Eleventh Circuit held that the federal courts lacked jurisdiction over Milbauer’s claim based on a broad reading of the VJRA’s prohibition on judicial review of any VA decision affecting “the provision of benefits” to veterans.

“This issue is extremely important to our military veterans seeking redress in cases of medical negligence against the VA,” Leigh Winstead, M-VETS Managing Attorney said. “The split among the Circuits creates uncertainty for veterans who have been harmed by the decisions of VA medical staff and desire to pursue damages under the FTCA.”  Winstead said.  “It is imperative that the Supreme Court clarify the confines of the VJRA’s jurisdictional bar to ensure that appropriate legal remedies are available to our veterans.”

M-VETS and the Baylor Clinic were represented by the international law firm of Reed Smith LLP in filing the brief. Both clinics provide active-duty members of the armed forces, their families, and veterans with free legal representation in matters of clear injustice or where they cannot retain counsel without undue hardship.  See link below for the U.S. Supreme Court filing.
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M-VETS Partners with 2-1-1 Virginia to Host a Veterans Information Seminar

M-VETS partners with 2-1-1 Virginia to host a veterans information seminar at the Antonin Scalia Law School.  Topics will consist of the 2-1-1s services to veterans and their families, 2-1-1 database, reports data and statistics, and the collaborative relationship between 2-1-1 Virginia and the Virginia Department of Veterans Services.
Please join 2-1-1 Virginia and M-VETS for an informative seminar on Friday, September 16. Please see details below.

 Veteran’s Information Seminar flyer
Patriot Thursdays with American Legion Post 139

Patriot Thursdays is a partnership between the Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (M-VETS) and American Legion Post 139 located in Arlington, Virginia. This partnership will be housed at American Legion Post 139’s location at 3445 Washington Blvd, Arlington, Virginia 22201.  M-VETS is able to provide much needed legal services to members of the military, their dependents and veterans.  Due to the proximity of Post 139 to the Antonin Scalia Law School, it was an ideal partnership to form.  Providing direct access to legal resources to the large veteran population in our geographic area is a priority for M-VETS. M-VETS provides legal representation concerning VA Disability/Benefit Appeals, Discharge Review Boards, Boards for Correction of Military Records, Medical/Physical Evaluation Boards, and military legal issues.
A unique service offered by the M-VETS legal clinic is the ability of the clinic to provide representation to clients in Northern Virginia civil courts in certain situations. M-VETS partnership with American Legion Post 139 will provide the opportunity for veterans and Servicemembers to speak one-on-one with attorneys and student advisors in an informal setting regarding a wide variety of civil matters such as landlord/tenant issues, contract disputes, or guidance in the divorce or separation process.  Many times clients simply need legal advice rather than representation and this will create a comfortable, confidential forum for that advice.  An initial consultation with a private attorney could cost as much as $400 for something as simple as advice on your rights as a tenant.

M-VETS will conduct office hours at Post 139 by appointment on Thursdays from 1300 until 1600 in order to provide legal services in a familiar and friendly environment. Post 139 will provide confidential workspace which will allow for veterans to have their legal matters heard by student advisors in the M-VETS program with supervision by an M-VETS attorney.  More information can be obtained and appointments can be made for this program by visiting http://mvets.law.gmu.edu/patriotthursdays/ by email at mvets@gmu.edu and phone (703) 993-8214.  American Legion Post 139 can be reached at legionpost139@gmail.com or (703) 524-1396.

RECENT PRESS 2014:  
Clinic files Amicus Curaie briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of active duty servicemembers, dependent families members and our veterans:
                  U S v June – CLASV Amicus Brief (Final)
                  U S v Wong – CLASV Amicus Brief (Final)
Discharge Upgrades for Less-than-Honorably discharged Vietnam Veterans:
The National Defense Talk Radio:  September 20, 2014

Defense One:  http://www.defenseone.com/management/2014/09/dod-will-reconsider-thousands-vietnam-vets-discharge-statuses/94037/
Government Executive:  http://www.govexec.com/defense/2014/09/new-guidance-aims-help-vietnam-era-vets-who-are-denied-benefits/94001/

The Alice Stewart Show, September 18, 2014
M-VETS & Fairfax Veterans Treatment Docket:
NBC4:  http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/262045511.html?sdklas
Fairfax Times:  http://www.fairfaxtimes.com/article/20140530/NEWS/140539816/1117/fairfax-county-to-create-veterans-treatment-court&template=fairfaxTimes
Washington Posthttp://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/officials-working-to-create-veterans-docket-in-fairfax/2014/05/23/dc747214-e1f2-11e3-8dcc-d6b7fede081a_story.html
Recent Press/May 2014:
Lars Larson:   https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/lars-larson-national-podcast/id783763928?i=309787802&mt=2   5/2/2014, National Broadcast (around 830 pm—in last ½ hour)
Rob Shilling Show:  10709 WINA Charlottesville:  http://wina.com/podcasts/hour-1-bill-frady-jason-haag-laurie-forbes-neff-and-mary-sutton/
Richmond’s Morning News with Rob Barrett:  http://www.1140wrva.com/media/podcast-jimmy-barrett-RMNPodcasts/free-legal-help-for-vets-24733203/
TownHall Q&Ahttp://townhall.com/tipsheet/cortneyobrien/2014/05/26/gmu-military-clinic-representing-our-armed-forces-n1843283
New Release On April 30, 2104
Neff spoke with Jim Bohannon, host of the nationally-syndicated Jim Bohannon Show (10 pm – 1 am weeknights) and nationally-syndicated America in the Morning (5 am – 6 am ET weekday mornings) about GMU’s M-VETS, what it is doing, and it’s involvement in establishing a veterans’ treatment docket in Fairfax County.

New Release dated November 28, 2013

Neff describes to In the Capital’s Higher Ed Reporter, what a gem GMU’s M-VETS is to the student participants and those they assist.

http://inthecapital.streetwise.co/2013/11/28/george-mason-law-school-clinic-offers-pro-bono-services-to-veterans/ 

News Release dated November 11, 2013

-Neff speaks with Andrew Wilcow of the Blaze TV’s “Wilcow!”.

-Neff appears on Fox 5 DC to talk about the great work M-VETS is doing for servicemembers, dependent family members and veterans.

http://www.myfoxdc.com/video?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=9514043

-Neff speaks to Federal News Radio about M-VETS

-M-VETS and a student advisor featured in The Free Beacon:

http://freebeacon.com/uncategorized/off-the-battlefield-and-into-the-courtroom/

News Release dated September 19, 2013

-Neff Appointed to the Special Committee on Problem-Solving Dockets by Chief Justice Cynthia Kinser, Virginia Supreme Court

Press Release dated July 15, 2011
Neff Assumes Leadership of Clinic for Legal Assistance to Servicemembers and Veterans (pdf)

News Release dated October 10, 2011

M-VETS Founder and Senior Advisor Joseph Zengerle will address the Dougherty-Nelson Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps Continuing Education Symposium (Oct. 13-14, 2011) at George Mason University School of Law, Hazel Hall, Room 121. Zengerle will speak on 13 October from 1315-1415 hours.

M-VETS and Mason Law sponsor the Joint Services Appellate Defense Conference, October 27, 2011, from 0800-1300 hours in Hazel Hall, Room 121.

News Release dated August 14, 2012

On July 21, Laurie Forbes Neff presented at the 122nd Virginia Bar Association Summer Conference, speaking by invitation from the Virginia Veterans Task Force on “What You Need to Know When Helping Veterans: SCRA, USERRA, and the Rest of the Alphabet Soup.”