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Va. lawyers help Iraq, Afghanistan vets

Wednesday - 12/28/2011, 10:27am  ET

RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia lawyers are pitching in to help Iraq and Afghanistan veterans obtain benefits or resolve other legal issues.

Volunteer lawyers are donating their services to veterans through a Virginia Bar Association initiative. They help veterans who have problems concerning benefits, disabilities and discharges.

"We've placed over 30 cases," Bob Barrett, co-chairman of the bar association's Veterans Issues Task Force, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch ( http://bit.ly/vaHjCo).

Veterans often are unable to navigate a complex system to obtain their benefits. Many can't work or can work only in a reduced capacity, said Barrett's wife, Erin L Barrett, a lawyer with the Hunton & Williams law firm in Richmond.

"The need for these services among Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans is astonishing, and increased benefits have a significant impact on the veteran and his or her family, and enable them to live a life out of poverty," said Erin Barrett, who is the director of Hunton & Williams' Veterans Pro Bono Program.

Hunton & Williams is a participant in the National Veterans Legal Services Program's Lawyers Serving Warriors initiative, which provides free legal help to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from across the nation. The program recently gave Hunton & Williams its Pro Bono Partner of the Year Award for its efforts.

Another Richmond law firm, McGuireWoods, has co-sponsored education and outreach sessions with a program established by the College of William & Mary's law school to help veterans with benefit claims.

"We've seen the (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) say `no' for completely wrong reasons," said Matthew A. Kapinos, an associate with McGuireWoods and co-chairman of the bar association's task force.

"We can help soldiers overcome road blocks like that," Kapinos said.

The bar association has raised funds for Helping Military Veterans through Higher Education, a partnership of higher education institutions that helps Virginia veterans through education, outreach, evaluation, treatment and the benefits claims process.

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Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.timesdispatch.com


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