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Harvard Law Students Fight for Veteran Benefits

April 29, 2016 10:01 pm Leave your thoughts Harvard Magazine’s “Fighting for Veterans, Learning the Law” relates the story of Lt. Col. Wilson Ausmer Jr., U.S. Army Reserves, who was completing his third tour in Afghanistan while suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and enduring a bad foot injury in 2011. During his tour, Ausmer applied for disability compensation. The VA sent its response letter to Ausmer’s home in Missouri, not to where he was stationed. That letter denied his application and notified him of his right to appeal within 120 days of receipt. The letter waited for Ausmer to come home from Afghanistan for five months. By the time he read the letter, Ausmer lost his only chance to appeal. The VA gave no help, but three Harvard Law School students did. They successfully argued in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims that the clock on an appeals claim should start only after a veteran has returned home—rather than when a letter arrives in his or her mailbox back home. The favorable ruling allows recently discharged veterans like Ausmer—whose ability to file an appeal is “materially affected” by their service—to be permitted extra time from their discharge date to appeal. The three law students took Ausmer’s case as part of the Harvard Veterans Law and Disability Benefits Clinic. Participating law students help veterans in administrative and federal court appeals—like Ausmer’s case. We salute The Harvard Clinic, and the many other law school clinics around the country that allow law students to serve our veterans and others while learning what it means to practice law. For information about appealing VA pension and compensation decisions, what available VA pension and compensation benefits may be available to you or your veteran, and to access free information and tools, visit our veteran pension benefits website. Reference: Harvard Magazine (February 9, 2016) “Fighting for Veterans, Learning the Law” Image Credit: Titin Valley, Afghanistan The U.S. Army [CC BY 2.0], via flickr.com