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.

M-VETS Finalizes Divorce for Active Duty Servicemember

The Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (“M-VETS”) recently finalized a divorce for an active duty servicemember in the United States Air Force after two years of drafting a property settlement agreement and navigating the divorce through the Fairfax County Circuit Court. Not only was M-VETS able to complete the divorce without the servicemember having to incur attorneys’ fees, but M-VETS handled the matter while the servicemember completed training in South Carolina and throughout her deployment to Kuwait.

Four M-VETS Student Advisors worked on the matter over the course of the two-year representation, ultimately bringing the case to a successful conclusion. M-VETS was founded with the mission to assist active-duty military personnel with legal matters at home while they serve abroad.  In this sense, the services that M-VETS provides have a direct bearing on the readiness, quality of life, and morale of our men and women serving in the armed forces.  This case and others like it at the clinic are typical of the many small victories that have a large impact in the lives of M-VETS clients.

“M-VETS handles many similar cases on the civil side of the clinic for servicemembers, veterans and their dependents and, though they are not always the most complicated legal matters, we hope that we are providing a valuable service to our men and women in the armed forces who have enough to worry about without having their time or money consumed by legal matters at home,” M-VETS Managing Attorney Leigh Winstead said. “Our Student Advisors did a tremendous job on this matter and were instrumental in diligently pushing this case through the finish line.”

M-VETS Student-Advisors Awarded Public Service and Outstanding Student Awards

Former M-VETS student-advisors were recently awarded the Emerging Leader in Public Service award and the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) Outstanding Student Award. M-VETS student-advisor Jamesian D. Emmanuel was awarded the Antonin Scalia Law School Emerging Leader in Public Service award for his contributions in public service while attending Scalia Law, while M-VETS student-advisor C.J. Nee was awarded the CLEA Outstanding Student Award for his excellence in the clinical and classroom components of M-VETS.

Jamesian received the Emerging Leader in Public Service Award given to a graduating student who has engaged in public service work during their law school career and plans to continue public service work upon graduation. During his time at Scalia Law, Mr. Emmanuel was employed as a Police Officer for Northern Virginia Community College, presided as the President of the Military Law Society for two academic semesters, performed duties as a student-advisor for two academic semesters assisting veterans, military members and their dependents in M-VETS, and volunteered as an intern for the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs.  Since graduation, Mr. Emmanuel has continued his public serve in a leadership position and has accepted an active duty commission in the Judge Advocate General’s Corp as an officer in the United States Air Force.

C.J. was awarded the CLEA Outstanding Student Award for his demonstrated excellence in the clinical and classroom components of M-VETS. The award honors one law student at each law school who has excelled in a clinical course. The award is given annually at the completion of the academic year for excellence in both the field work component of the clinical course and excellence in the seminar component of the clinical course determined by the quality of the student’s thoughtfulness and self-reflection in exploring the legal, ethical, strategic, and other pertinent issues raised in the particular clinic. C.J.’s dedication to the M-VETS program, its clients, and his understanding of the importance of helping those who have served our country in uniform has made a lasting impact in the lives of the clinic’s clients.  His work on behalf of the clinic has directly increased access to justice for the military and veteran community.

Jamesian and C.J., Bravo Zulu!

 

Opening a Door to Malpractice Suits

The National Law Journal

Jamie Schuman, Supreme Court Brief

December 28, 2016

When veteran Richard Milbauer sued the government for medical negligence, a federal court ruled it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. That decision could leave all veterans without a way to obtain judicial review of their malpractice claims against Veterans Administration hospitals, a petition for certiorari in Milbauer v. United States warns. Milbauer’s case is scheduled for conference on Jan. 6. “It’s bigger than him,” said Reed Smith partner Colin Wrabley, who filed an amicus brief in support of Milbauer’s petition. “This case stands to protect potentially all veterans’ ability tosue for V.A. malpractice.” Reed Smith filed its friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of two law school clinics: the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University’s Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic and the Baylor University School of Law Veterans’ Assistance Clinic. The brief is the first before the court that bears the new name of George Mason University’s law school. The clinics provide free legal aid on a range of topics to current and former members of the military.

Their brief argues it is especially important that federal courts hear claims like Milbauer’s because of “rampant substandard medical care in the VA healthcare system.” Milbauer went to a V.A. clinic for treatment in 2005 after hurting his shoulder in a construction accident. Milbauer, who said he is claustrophobic, did not want a traditional MRI. It took V.A. doctors 10 months to run an alternate test, according to Milbauer, and diagnose the injury as a torn rotator cuff. When Milbauer finally had surgery, the procedure was unsuccessful. Milbauer sued for malpractice, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit said in January that federal district courts had no jurisdiction over the case. Milbauer maintains that the Federal Tort Claims Act enabled him to sue the government in federal court. But the Eleventh Circuit found that a separate law, the Veterans Judicial Review Act of 1988, blocked his suit. This was so, the court said, because the claim involved a benefits decision, rather than a malpractice allegation. The Veterans Judicial Review Act created a separate administrative review process for benefits questions, such as billing disputes. But the amicus brief argues that cases like Milbauer’s would be ineligible for judicial review under that channel. Milbauer’s petition gets into the nitty-gritty of how medical-negligence suits differ from benefits cases. It also details a circuit split on the scope of the bar of the Veterans Judicial Review Act.

The law school clinics’ brief looks at the legislative history of the Federal Tort Claims Act and Veterans Judicial Review Act, and argues that Congress could not have intended for the latter to prevent Milbauer from getting a district court to hear his case. “That can’t be right, it shouldn’t be right and it’s not the way that the [Federal Tort Claims Act] is written,” Reed Smith’s Wrabley said. His brief argued the point of the act is to provide an easy path to judicial recourse for people injured by government negligence. The amicus brief also details problems in the V.A. health care system, pointing, for instance, to the government’s struggle to effectively respond to reports of poor conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The brief said many veterans cannot afford to hire lawyers to raise malpractice claims, and that attorneys might hesitate to take those cases because they can be cumbersome and offer a limited payoff. These dynamics make the Eleventh Circuit’s decision especially dangerous, the clinics argue.

Reed Smith partner James Martin was counsel of record on the amicus brief. M. Patrick Yingling, an associate at the firm, also worked on the case. Martin, Yingling and Wrabley had previously collaborated with the George Mason clinic on a different amicus brief involving veterans’ rights under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The Supreme Court heard that case, United Sates v. Kwai Fun Wong, two years ago. Wrabley said students at both clinics assisted with research and provided feedback on drafts of the Milbauer brief. He said the decision to work on the case pro bono was a no-brainer. “It’s easy to get involved in something like this when you’re supporting the cause of someone who has sacrificed so much,” Wrabley said.

Jamie Schuman is a freelance writer and graduate of George Washington University Law School.

 

Legal help for veterans: Taking the case for those who have taken up arms

Legal help for veterans: Taking the case for those who have taken up arms

  by Buzz McClain

Veterans of combat often return home from conflict zones with mental and emotional traumas. Sometimes those traumas lead to unhealthy or illegal involvement in drugs and alcohol. If veterans are apprehended in Fairfax County, Va., chances are they’ll be introduced to the Fairfax County Veterans Treatment Docket, Virginia’s only court-supervised program specifically for military veterans.

The federally funded, multi-department program is supported by the Antonin Scalia Law School’s Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic, also called M-VETS. The clinic helps staff the docket with third-year law students who volunteer to perform a number of specialized tasks. The students gain hands-on experience and access to criminal court cases with real-world consequences.

It’s a two-semester, nine-month commitment, said clinic director and law professor Timothy MacArthur.

Clinic volunteer Jameson Goodell said the clinic has been as instructive as his time in the classroom.

“What we deal with is [the client’s] treatment, and you have to know their history, their life, their home life, the problems they’ve had to deal with,” Goodell said. “It’s more about the human aspect,” instead of getting bogged down in legal minutiae.

Goodell’s position with the Fairfax County Public Defender Office means he has a direct pipeline to the judge to work to resolve cases while minimizing adverse effects on the veterans.

Fernando Cota-Wertz’s position with the Commonwealth Attorney’s office puts him in a role where he is “passing judgment on people,” he said, which is a different aspect than his usual legal studies.

“I sift through the cases and I actually make determinations of the candidates for acceptance into the program,” he said.

These are non-adversarial cases, which means the client has already admitted guilt and now faces treatment options, including attending rehabilitation, undergoing drug testing and performing community service. Without admission into the program, veterans would have to pay for the cost of the rehabilitation treatment, but in the program, the treatment is provided for them.

Goodell, who is originally from Richmond, Va., said his experience as an undergraduate at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va., influenced his decision to work in the M-VETS clinic.

“Many of my friends from VMI are in the military and that motivates me to help vets,” he said.

Cota-Wertz, whose family is from Mexico City, completed his undergraduate studies at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. He also has empathy for veterans.

“They go overseas and experience a lot of bad things on our behalf. When they come back, it’s the least we can do to try to help them.”

Cota-Wertz is applying for the Judge Advocate General’s Corps—JAG—the legal branch of the U.S. military.

Besides gaining valuable practical legal experience, said MacArthur, the law students also gain insights into military and veteran culture “and the unique issues facing those who have served our country in the armed forces.

“The docket is the only one in the commonwealth and is very selective when choosing clients and attorneys,” he said. “To my knowledge, they are the only law students in Virginia detailed to this program, and this experience will translate into employment opportunities in veterans law, criminal justice and numerous fellowship opportunities.”

Previous News

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.
milbauer-v-united-states-of-america-m-vets
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.”