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Veterans Legal Services Clinic
There are approximately 250,000 veterans currently residing in Connecticut, many with acute and unique legal needs related to their military service or return to civilian life. In this clinic, established in 2010, students have represented Connecticut veterans in litigation before administrative agencies and courts, on benefits, discharge upgrade, immigration, and pardon matters. In addition, students represent local and national organizations in non-litigation matters relating to the legal needs of veterans, including regulatory and legislative reform efforts, media advocacy, strategic planning, and other matters.
Clinic students also provide advice and conduct some intake at the New Haven Vet Center, which offers a range of counseling and other services particularly to combat veterans. The clinic makes special efforts to assist vulnerable veteran populations and those least connected to existing service networks, such as women, recently returned, non-citizen, LGBT, and elderly veterans. The seminar portion is a practice-oriented examination of advocacy on behalf of veterans and of social justice lawyering generally.
Resources for Veterans
COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions
NVLSP, VLSC White Paper: Veterans Who served on Guam ’62-75 Likely Exposed to Dioxin Herbicides
A white paper and a detailed appendix provided by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School (VLSC) and National Veterans Legal Service Program (NVLSP), for veterans who served on Guam from 1962 to 1975 to submit to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in support of their serviced-connected disability claims for Agent Orange-related diseases.
Terwilliger v. Cook
On April 21, 2020, Mr. David Terwilliger, an 80-year-old disabled veteran approaching the final year of a twenty-year sentence in Connecticut state prison, filed suit in federal court seeking his release. Mr. Terwilliger had been approved for community release but continued to be incarcerated.
VVA and NVCLR – PTSD Upgrade FOIA Suit
In May 2015, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress (NVCLR) filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Defense after it failed to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests. VVA and NVCLR had initiated these FOIA requests to gauge the Army, Navy, and Air Force’s compliance with former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s PTSD Upgrade Memo of September 2014.
Spires v. James
On November 18, 2016 H. Edward Spires sued the Secretary of the Air Force seeking an upgrade of his Undesirable discharge to Honorable after the AFBCMR twice denied his upgrade applications, claiming his records were lost in a 1973 fire. The Air Force discharged Mr. Spires in 1948 for reason of homosexuality. He became eligible for a discharge upgrade in 2011 after the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell. On January 6, 2017 the AFBCMR upgraded Mr. Spires’s discharge status to an Honorable discharge.
Kennedy v. Esper
A nationwide class-action lawsuit, on behalf of the approximately 60,000 less-than-Honorably discharged Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder—or PTSD—and other, related mental-health conditions. The lawsuit challenges the United States Army’s unconstitutional and improper treatment of these veterans.
POD + CVLC MST FOIA Litigation
On December 13, 2017, Protect Our Defenders POD) and the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC) filed suit in U.S. District Court to compel the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security to release records related to gender disparities within the military justice system, and to the military record correction boards’ handling of cases involving sexual assault and harassment.
IAVA-CT State Benefits Advocacy for Veterans with Bad Paper
The Connecticut Chapter of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA-CT) carries out IAVA’s mission to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans in the state. IAVA-CT is dedicated to ensuring that all Connecticut veterans – including those who were discharged from the military under less-than-honorable conditions – are welcomed back home, and continue to receive effective support and care in their communities. Most recently, IAVA-CT proposed and advocated for legislation aimed at ensuring equal access to state veterans’ benefits.
Manker v. Spencer
On March 2, 2018, Tyson Manker and the National Veterans Council for Legal Redress (NVCLR) filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of less-than-Honorably discharged Navy and Marine Corps veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related conditions from the Iraq and Afghanistan era.
IAVA-CT: Protecting Veterans from Employment Discrimination
The Connecticut Chapter of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA-CT) carries out IAVA’s mission to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans in the state. In partnership with IAVA-CT, the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) recently released new guidance to ensure that all veterans receive equal treatment when seeking employment opportunities.
Petition for Rulemaking to Change VA Motto
The clinic submitted a petition on behalf of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), and NYC Veterans Alliance to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA), asking the VA to replace its current motto with one that is inclusive of all veterans, including women.
Skaar v. Wilkie Class Action
The Veterans Legal Services Clinic represents a class of veterans who cleaned up after the 1966 Palomares, Spain nuclear disaster. The class is led by named appellant retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Victor Skaar before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC).
Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization
The Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization (LSO) provides legal representation to individuals and organizations in need of legal services but unable to afford private attorneys.
Ways to Engage
Yale Law School offers more than 30 clinics that provide students with hands on, practical experience in the law on a diverse range of subject matters.
Yale Law School offers a suite of innovative simulation courses based on real-world case studies.