M-VETS Student-Advisor Blog Post Used As A Source By Military Times Article

A blog post written by a former Student-Advisor for the Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (M-VETS) was cited in a recent article by Kyle Rempfer in the Military Times titled, “Service academy graduates could see longer military obligations.”

The article discusses a review by the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding the mandatory service requirements for graduates of the U.S. military academies.  Rempfer notes that the Committee will be examining the service requirements in light of the fact that those requirements have not changed in 20 years despite an increase in cost per graduate of nearly 20 percent.  In addition to the rising education costs, Rempfer noted the Committee’s concern regarding “recent studies suggest[ing] service academy graduates have lower junior officer retention rates than other officer commissioning sources.”  

The M-VETS Student-Advisor wrote the cited Blog post in May 2018, entitled “The Most Bang for your Buck: Are the United States Military Academies the Most Cost-Effective Way of Producing Officers?” The Blog post stated that the cost of a graduate of the U.S. military academies was four times as much as a graduate who earned their commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) or Officer Training School (OTS) and questioned whether this increased cost was justified.  In his article, Rempfer cited the Student-Advisor Blog for this fact.  The Military Times article can be viewed at the following link: 

https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-army/2019/07/15/service-academy-graduates-could-see-longer-military-obligations/       

Regarding the Student-Advisors Blog post being used as a source in the Military Times, M-VETS Director, Timothy MacArthur, stated:  “This is an incredible result for the Student-Advisor who wrote the Blog post.  The Military Times has a worldwide following and is a highly respected news outlet.  To be used as a source by a reputable author and/or organization is precisely the reason M-VETS has the requirement for Student-Advisors to write these articles.”

To read the Blog post written by this Student-Advisor, as well as other Student-Advisors posts, please visit the “Blog” page on the M-VETS website.

M-VETS Wins $15,000.00 in Disability Compensation for Former Army Special Forces Group Non-Commissioned Officer

The Antonin Scalia Law School Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (“M-VETS”) secured Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) disability compensation for a former Army Special Forces Non-Commissioned officer (NCO) Engineer. M-VETS argued in a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) filed with the DVA the former Special Forces NCO was entitled to service connection and disability payments for injuries caused by military service. While the DVA had previously denied disability compensation to the veteran, they agreed with the argument made by M-VETS and reversed their original denial for disability benefits. The initial disability payment exceeded $15,000.00 with an additional monthly award of $855.00. The monthly disability payment will continue for the rest of the former NCO’s lifetime.

The M-VETS client was a former member of an Army Special Forces Group while on active duty and in the Maryland National Guard. Notably, while on active duty the Special Forces Group NCO deployed to Iraq and Jordan on multiple occasions. Special Forces soldiers are trained to carry out complex missions including counterterrorism operations, guerrilla warfare, and efforts to train foreign fighters.

“I cannot express enough how grateful I am for the help of M-VETS. I didn’t think I would ever see this successfully resolved. GMU M-VETS made it happen. No question. Please accept my sincerest thanks,” said the Special Forces veteran. “For the sacrifices our client made in the military, I am really pleased with the outcome M-VETS was able to secure,” Timothy MacArthur, M-VETS Director said. “To serve as a soldier with Army Special Forces, with multiple overseas combat deployments, it is very challenging work which requires those soldiers to place other interests before their own. The fact that we were able to pursue our clients’ legal needs first hopefully paid a little bit of the debt we owe back to this veteran,” MacArthur said.

M-VETS mission is to provide free legal 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 provides representation in a variety of matters including Virginia civil litigation matters, uncontested divorces, consumer protection matters, wills and powers of attorney, as well as assisting with matters before the VA and various administrative boards, including discharge upgrades, record corrections, military pay and entitlement matters, and VA disability benefit appeals.

Stepparent Adoption

In March 2019, the Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic successfully assisted an Army Officer in the adoption of the Officer’s two minor children by his current wife. M-VETS drafted all pleadings, orders, and affidavits necessary to complete the stepparent adoption as well as assisted the family in obtaining the required background check for the stepmother, now a mandatory requirement in Virginia stepparent adoptions.

“The process was perfectly handled by M-VETS and turned out to be a quick/painless process. Communication and oversight by Casey was excellent,” mentioned the Officer.

Student Advisor Casey Hunt worked on the matter from the initial intake assessment to drafting all necessary pleadings, orders and administrative forms to finalize the adoption. In doing so, she worked closely with the family to ensure that the adoption proceeded smoothly and efficiently.

“Stepparent adoptions are a wonderful service provided by the clinic and allow our students to gain practical experience drafting pleadings and other documents while helping a family become whole,” said M-VETS Deputy Director Leigh Winstead. “Casey did an outstanding job on this matter, finalizing what is usually a lengthy process in a very timely manner,” Winstead said.

M-VETS assists veterans, servicemembers, and their dependents in a variety of civil matters, including uncontested divorces, landlord/tenant matters, consumer protection and contract disputes, as well as in military/VA administrative matters, including MEB/PEBs, discharge upgrades, and VA disability compensation appeals.

M-VETS Secures Almost $13,000.00 in Dependency and Indemnity Compensation for the Surviving Spouse of a Vietnam Veteran

(Pictured Katie Stegmuller and David Kaplan)

In March of 2019, the Antonin Scalia Law School Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (“M-VETS”) secured Dependency and Indemnity Compensation for the surviving spouse of a Vietnam veteran. M-VETS Student Advisors Katie Stegmuller and David Kaplan assisted the surviving spouse in the preparation and submission of this claim. The initial award for the surviving spouse totaled almost $13,000.00 in back pay with an additional monthly award of $1,300.00. The monthly payment will continue for the rest of the surviving spouse’s lifetime.

The clients spouse was a Vietnam veteran who served honorably in the United States Air Force as an Aerospace Ground Equipment Repairman from January 14, 1964 until September 15, 1967. Notably, while on active duty the veteran earned the Vietnam Service Medal with one Bronze Service Star, Republic of Vietnam Commendation Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal. Unfortunately, the veteran passed away in 2016 due to metastatic lung cancer. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) presumes certain disabilities are caused by military service. In this matter, the veteran served in the Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, and it is presumed the veteran was exposed to Agent Orange during that period of time, which caused the metastatic lung cancer.

“I am truly grateful for all the hard work the students put into my matter and humbled by their selfless giving. I can’t wait until they become attorneys, I will be so proud,” said the surviving spouse. Student Advisor Katie Stegmuller commented, “Working with our client has been an absolute joy, and I am pleased to have helped our client secure DIC benefits by filing a fully developed claim. Our client has been exceptionally grateful and positive throughout M-VETS representation, long before we heard the good news from the VA.”

“Katie and David did a great job for our client in this matter,” Timothy MacArthur, M-VETS Director said. “The circumstances of why our client sought out the assistance of M-VETS are certainly sorrowful, the death of a beloved spouse. Our student advisors are always mindful of these circumstances and they try their best to provide any assistance they can to make the situation a little brighter. In this matter, we were able to secure some financial assistance for our client which should help out in the years to come.”

M-VETS mission is to provide free legal 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 provides representation in a variety of matters including Virginia civil litigation matters, uncontested divorces, consumer protection matters, wills and powers of attorney, as well as assisting with matters before the VA and various administrative boards, including discharge upgrades, record corrections, military pay and entitlement matters, and VA disability benefit appeals.

M-VETS Receives American Bar Association Military Pro Bono Project Outstanding Services Award

The Antonin Scalia Law School Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (“M-VETS”) recently received the American Bar Association (ABA) Military Pro Bono Project Outstanding Services Award for its services in 2018. The ABA Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel (LAMP) issued this award to M-VETS for their extraordinary pro bono services through the ABA Military Pro Bono Project.

The LAMP committee issues these awards annually to individual attorneys, law firms, and law departments who provided pro bono legal services to active duty servicemembers throughout the year. The award was presented to law firms who represented five or more servicemembers, individual attorneys who represented three or more Servicemembers and attorneys who provided 50 or more hours of pro bono legal services. In 2018, M-VETS was able to provide 2289 hours of pro bono legal work to veterans, servicemembers, and their families. At a private market value of $225/hour M-VETS was able to provide $515,025.00 of pro bono legal assistance during 2018.

Regarding the award, M-VETS Director Tim MacArthur stated: “We are very grateful to the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel for presenting M-VETS with this award. We are grateful for the opportunity to be able to provide pro bono legal services to this community while also teaching law students how to practice law.” Assistant Director Leigh Winstead added “It is an honor to have the opportunity to provide free legal services to the military community, a service we would not be able to provide as efficiently and effectively without the hard work of our dedicated student advisors. We appreciate the ABA’s recognition of our clinic’s work and look forward to continuing to serve our veterans, servicemembers and their families,” said Winstead.

M-VETS mission is to provide free legal 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 provides representation in a variety of matters including Virginia civil litigation matters, uncontested divorces, consumer protection matters, wills and powers of attorney, as well as assisting with matters before the VA and various administrative boards, including discharge upgrades, record corrections, military pay and entitlement matters, and VA disability benefit appeals.

M-VETS Prevails in Securing Judgment for Veteran’s Security Deposit

(Pictured: Casey Hunt, Michael Vlcek)

In October of 2018, the Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic represented a veteran and his wife at trial in General District Court to recover their $2,000 security deposit held by their former landlords. In a nearly five-hour long trial, M-VETS student advisors Casey Hunt and Michael Vlcek conducted an opening statement, direct and cross examinations, and a closing argument culminating in judgment for the full amount sought by the clinic’s clients.

“Michael and Casey did an excellent job through full trial preparations and ultimately securing a favorable judgment for our clients,” Leigh Winstead, M-VETS Assistant Director said. “Like many of our civil matters, this is a case where the attorneys’ fees required to litigate would have outweighed the potential recovery; M-VETS’s representation allowed this veteran and his family to pursue their legal remedies with the assistance of counsel and recover what was rightfully theirs,” Winstead said.

“To say that M-VETS is an amazing resource to the Veteran Community is a massive understatement,” said the veteran client. “Without this service we would have had no choice but to abandon our legal case. Their professionalism, dedication and work ethic are in line with the highest ethos we were all instilled with in the US military,” said the veteran.

M-VETS mission is to provide free legal 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 provides representation in a variety of matters including Virginia civil litigation matters, uncontested divorces, consumer protection matters, wills and powers of attorney, as well as assisting with matters before the VA and various administrative boards, including discharge upgrades, record corrections, military pay and entitlement matters, and VA disability benefit appeals.

M-VETS Provides Pro Bono Wills for Veterans at American Legion Post 139 over Veterans Day Weekend

(Pictured: Chris Babic, Jessica O’Connell, Leigh Winstead, Casey Hunt)

The Antonin Scalia Law School Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (“M-VETS”) inaugural “Wills for Veterans” program was hosted by American Legion Post 139 in Arlington, Virginia on 10-11 November 2018. Along with M-VETS staff and Adjunct Faculty, Jessica O’Connell, M-VETS student-advisors Casey Hunt, Quinn Kahsay, Chris Babic, Katie Stegmuller and Brandon Howell represented Scalia Law School and the M-VETS program by assisting in the drafting of wills, powers of attorney, and living wills for veterans and their dependents.

The M-VETS Wills for Veterans program was created by M-VETS Assistant Director Leigh M. Winstead and Director Timothy M. MacArthur in an effort to provide these much needed legal services to veterans and their dependents while increasing awareness of the pro bono legal services M-VETS is able to provide to this community. MacArthur believes outreach to organizations like the American Legion is essential in promoting the M-VETS program. “These outreach opportunities provide a valuable learning experience to the student-advisors as they are able to assist in providing legal services directly to our clients while also learning about veteran culture through first-hand experience,” MacArthur said.

Held over Veterans Day weekend, the M-VETS Wills for Veterans program assisted approximately 20 veterans and their dependents during the two-day event. M-VETS was joined by the Arlington County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division which sponsored the Wills for Heroes Program and provided wills to first responders and their dependents. Leigh M. Winstead was the M-VETS attorney providing legal services for the Will for Veterans program. “We are very grateful to American Legion Post 139 for hosting two great days of appreciation for our veterans and first responders.  The fact that many veterans decided to spend part of their Veterans Day with us was very rewarding. We were also able to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the end of World War I and pay our respects to those veterans.” Winstead said.

Student-Advisor Chris Babic commented: “I was honored to take part in the Wills for Veterans program. Assisting military veterans with legal services has been the most fulfilling experience of my time at Scalia Law School. M-VETS makes a valuable contribution to the military community while giving student advisors invaluable hands-on experience.”

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 Finalizes Seven-Year Litigation to Assist Servicemember in Securing Return of Security Deposit After Battling Through Federal and State Court

(Pictured: Historic Fairfax County Courthouse)

The Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (M-VETS) closed one of its oldest and most unique cases in December 2017, securing ordinary relief through unorthodox means. M-VETS represented an active-duty Servicemember and his wife in seeking the return of their security deposit in 2010.  M-VETS finalized the matter last month, resulting in the recovery of the entire security deposit, plus seven years of interest.

In a bizarre case that began and ended in the Historic Fairfax County Courthouse, the original judgment in favor of the Servicemember was appealed to the Circuit Court, where M-VETS prevailed on summary judgment. The Landlord subsequently filed an appeal to the Virginia Court of Appeals—though unbeknownst to M-VETS or its clients, the landlord had also filed bankruptcy during the pendency of both appeals.  The bankruptcy triggered the automatic stay with respect to all litigation at the State court level.

Because the Servicemember was not listed as a creditor in the Landlord’s bankruptcy, M-VETS filed an Adversary Proceeding in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to lift the stay and have the debt deemed non-dischargeable in the Landlord’s bankruptcy. M-VETS obtained a final order from the bankruptcy court in the fall of 2016, which ordered the relief sought to move forward at the State court level.

With the automatic stay lifted, the Virginia Court of Appeals, which lacked subject matter jurisdiction, transferred the Landlord’s appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia where the landlord sought to amend her notice of appeal and sought an extension of time to file her petition for appeal. M-VETS drafted and filed an opposition brief to the Landlord’s motion and prevailed in having both motions denied.

In May of 2017, the Supreme Court of Virginia issued a final order finding no reversible error in the Landlord’s appeal and denying the petition for appeal. Shortly thereafter, M-VETS filed a motion in the Circuit Court for the release of the civil appeal bond in the full amount of the security deposit and filing fees.  Although the motion was granted, the Servicemember was still owed seven years of interest on the judgment.  To collect on that amount, M-VETS filed a wage garnishment in the Circuit Court, which came to a final resolution with the interest amount paid in full to the Servicemember in December of 2017.

The successful resolution required the hard work of M-VETS Attorneys and Student-Advisors drafting motions, briefs, and orders throughout trial, various motions and several appeals before both federal and state courts in the Commonwealth. Over the course of the representation, more than 10 M-VETS Student-Advisors worked tirelessly on the matter, including current Student-Advisor, Lindsey Turok, who brought the case to finality.

“We can’t believe that this 7-year ordeal is [] finished. Thank you [M-VETS] for everything you have done for us.  We wouldn’t have this end result if it wasn’t for all of [M-VETS] work and all of the previous M-VETS lawyers and students on our case,” said the clients.

Regarding the outcome, M-VETS Managing Attorney Leigh Winstead stated: “This case took a very unusual course and required the efforts of many students and M-VETS personnel to reach a successful conclusion for our very deserving clients. Without pro bono assistance on this matter, the attorneys’ fees required to litigate at the federal and State court levels would have far exceeded the amount collected.  We are grateful for the opportunity to be able to secure a just result for an active duty servicemember and his family.”

M-VETS assists veterans, servicemembers, and their dependents in a variety of civil matters, including uncontested divorces, landlord/tenant matters, consumer protection and contract disputes, as well as in military/VA administrative matters, including MEB/PEBs, discharge upgrades, and VA disability compensation appeals.

M-VETS Prevails at Trial in Landlord-Tenant Dispute

The Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Clinic (M-VETS) won a favorable verdict for a client, a Coast Guard and Marine Corps Veteran, in Stafford County Circuit Court last month. The client sought and recovered the return of his security deposit from his former landlord, who withheld the entire deposit, in part, to pay for damages the tenant reported to the landlord during his tenancy.  The Circuit Court Judge found that the damages were the responsibility of the Landlord pursuant to the terms of the Lease and that the Landlord’s failure to conduct a proper move-out inspection warranted the return of the entire security deposit to the tenant.

This verdict was achieved after the opposing party appealed the General District Court’s decision, where the lower court also held in favor of the M-VETS client in the spring of 2017. An appeal from District Court to Circuit Court constitutes a trial “de novo” where a new trial is conducted without deferring to the lower court’s rulings on law or fact.  M-VETS successfully prevailed at both trials, concluding the legal issue in the client’s favor.

M-VETS had been assisting the client with this matter since the fall of 2016. During that period, three M-VETS Student Advisors assisted on the case, including current Student Advisor Emma Devaney.  M-VETS Managing Attorney Leigh Winstead provided representation at trial in addition to her supervisory role.

The client expressed his gratitude to M-VETS for their representation. “[F]rom the start, [M-VETS] made me feel like I had an ally . . . [their personnel’s] friendly manner and obvious professional expertise gave me hope that I could put the facts in front of a judge on an equal footing with any company or person with more resources than me,” the client said.

Regarding the outcome, M-VETS Director, Tim MacArthur, stated: “The core missions for M-VETS are to provide pro-bono legal representation for veterans, Servicemembers and their dependents while providing the opportunity for Scalia Law students to gain valuable practical experience assisting our target population.  It is always satisfying to correct an injustice for our clients especially when the expense of litigation would have made it practically impossible to favorably resolve the matter.  Ms. Winstead, Ms. Devaney and the other Student Advisors did an outstanding job with this case and I always like to hear from our clients that the services we provided were appreciated, but more importantly, that our services were provided in a professional and compassionate manner.”

M-VETS assists veterans, servicemembers, and their dependents in a variety of civil matters, including uncontested divorces, landlord/tenant matters, consumer protection and contract disputes, as well as in military/VA administrative matters, including MEB/PEBs, discharge upgrades, and VA disability compensation appeals.

M-VETS Finalizes Step-Parent Adoptions for Two Families of Active Duty Servicemembers

(Pictured: Leigh Winstead, Bonnie Kelly, Anna Dryden)

The Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (M-VETS) successfully assisted two military families in filing and finalizing step-parent adoptions this fall. The first family of an active duty Marine sought the clinic’s assistance in finalizing the adoption of the Marine’s four-year-old stepdaughter. The Servicemember, who met his wife while stationed overseas in Europe, requested assistance from M-VETS in filing the petition for adoption.  With the hard work of M-VETS Student Advisors who drafted all pleadings, affidavits and orders, the Servicemember and his family received the Final Order of Adoption in August.

“Their assistance has made our life much easier and the process was headache free. Their assistance gave us the peace of mind we needed to close that chapter in our lives,” said the family.

“M-VETS has given [us] what we always wanted: to officially be a family. We will forever be grateful and never forget the hard work that has been done by them. A foreign adoption that ended up successfully and with tears of joy,” said one family member.

The second client is an active duty servicemember serving in the United States Air Force. He contacted M-VETS seeking to adopt his seven-year-old step-son.  M-VETS Student Advisors not only drafted affidavits and pleadings, but also obtained the consent of the birth father to efficiently finalize the adoption.

“We are so grateful to M-VETS for the adoption services, along with extraordinary customer service, provided to our family.  The process was made simple and the path almost completely navigated by their highly qualified personnel,” said the family.

Three M-VETS Student Advisors worked tirelessly on these adoption matters, including current Student Advisors Bonnie Kelly and Anna Dryden.

“Our Student Advisors were incredibly diligent and meticulous in navigating these step-parent adoptions to successful resolutions,” M-VETS Managing Attorney Leigh Winstead said. “It was not only a great learning experience for our students, but an incredibly rewarding experience to be able to bring a family together in a legal sense.”

M-VETS assists veterans, servicemembers, and their dependents in a variety of civil matters, including uncontested divorces, landlord/tenant matters, consumer protection and contract disputes, as well as in military/VA administrative matters, including MEB/PEBs, discharge upgrades, and VA disability compensation appeals.