In 2015, the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School established the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership (VJPBP) to help veterans who were discharged with a less-than-honorable discharge to upgrade their discharge status. Over 200,000 service members have been discharged with a less-than-honorable discharge since 9/11. In many cases, service-related trauma contributed to the conduct that led to their less-than-honorable discharge. A service member who was discharged with a less-than-honorable discharge status can have lifelong difficulties accessing healthcare and educational opportunities and securing stable employment and housing. Though the need is tremendous, most veterans do not have access to the critical legal representation necessary to help them upgrade their status.

VJPBP aims to close this access to justice gap by helping to train and support pro bono attorneys who are interested in providing pro bono assistance to service members seeking discharge upgrades. The VJBP screens and refers veterans seeking discharge upgrades to private pro bono attorneys and provides these attorneys with ongoing support, training, and expert resources throughout the case. Attorneys who are interested in serving as pro bono attorneys with the VJPBP are eligible to participate in the partnership after attending a training related to discharge upgrades. Attorneys can be licensed in any state but they should work in one of the New England states to join this pro bono partnership. For attorneys interested in becoming pro bono attorneys with VJPBP, the Boston Bar Association is sponsoring the next training on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 from 4pm to 5:30pm at 16 Beacon Street in Boston. The training is titled Representing Veterans in Discharge Upgrades: Building a Persuasive Case.

Dana Montalto

Dana Montalto

Dana Montalto of the Veterans Legal Clinic and Robert Cuthbert of the Urban Justice Center will conduct this training with a focus on how to build a strong evidentiary record to support a discharge upgrade application. Since VJPBP’s establishment, there have been two other previous trainings – an introductory training in June 2015 and a more advanced training in May 2016.  Attorneys who did not attend the prior trainings are welcome to attend this upcoming advanced training. Attorneys without prior training are encouraged to watch the introductory training beforehand, which is available online. Please email Cassandra Shavney at cshavney@bostonbar.org for access to those trainings. The 5/23 training is eligible for 1.5 hours of CLE credit. Law students are welcome but are not eligible to take pro bono referrals from the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership.  Harvard Law School students who are interested in representing veterans in these types of matters are eligible to register in their second and/or third years to participate in HLS’s Veterans Legal Clinic.

For attorneys who are interested in taking on a pro bono case through VJPBP, you can contact Dana Montalto at  dmontalto@law.harvard.edu.  Dana is also happy to connect attorneys from other states with the pro bono panel in their geographic area.

To register for this upcoming training, click here:  Pro Bono Training:  Representing Veterans in Discharge Upgrades: Building a Persuasive Case.