The Bob Parsons Veterans Advocacy Clinic (VAC) has had many successes assisting veterans with a variety of legal challenges. But the team is celebrating several recent achievements, thanks to the persistence of clinic student-attorneys and the guidance of clinic director Prof. Hugh McClean and clinical teaching fellow Katy Clemens. Here is a summary of these cases from Clemens.
The first win is for a client who we met and represented at the Baltimore City Veterans Treatment Court. Our student Calvin Riorda, who was representing him, found out that his claim to the Department of Veterans Affairs for service-connected disability benefits for bipolar disorder — that he had before his military service but was permanently aggravated by his service — had been denied time and time again. Cal worked with the client to get a helpful medical opinion from his treating psychiatrist.
Our student Ross Varndell then took over from Cal, drafted an argument for a new claim, worked with the client to put together a personal statement, and submitted the whole package to VA. On June 18, we discovered that the VA granted service connection for bipolar disorder with a 100 percent disability rating! These are exceptionally difficult cases to win. It is a testament to the great work that Cal and Ross did, with Prof. McClean as their supervisor, that this ideal result came so quickly.
The second win is for a client VAC has been representing for years. She is the widow of a veteran who died of a drug overdose several years back, and she filed for benefits due to his death being related to his military service: specifically, his residual PTSD and chronic pain. Our students Augustine Gonzales, Shane Nolan, and Holland Robinson Burch represented her before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, where they won a remand back to the agency to obtain better medical opinions on the case.
Our student Tom McDonald then took over representation before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, where he worked with our client to obtain a supportive medical opinion. I took over at the end and finished the job, and we just found out on June 19 that she finally won, nine years after she filed her claim! This client and her extremely complex case have required a lot of careful attention from our students (and from us), and we couldn’t be more delighted to be able to tell her that it was all worth it in the end.