2014-2015 SVA Miami Law Chapter Board of Directors and Pro Bono Panelists: From Left to Right: Colonel Noel Christian Pace, 3L; Sharon Booth, ’95; Liam McGivern, ’12; Leah Weston, ’14; Jessica Neer, 2L; Tara Irani, 2L; First Lieutenant Ashley George, 2L.
The Student Veterans of America (SVA), Miami Law Chapter recently hosted a lunch-time panel on pro bono opportunities on behalf of veterans. The panel, which discussed how to get involved in legally supporting veterans, was hosted by the Student Veterans of America, Miami Law Chapter, which is an official chapter of the Student Veterans of America.
The panel featured Liam McGivern, JD ’12, a Staff Attorney at Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc., and former Skadden Fellow, who also serves as Director of Veteran Advocacy Project, where he represents low-income veterans before military discharge review boards, before the Department of Veterans Affairs, and before other government agencies. It also featured Leah Weston, JD ’14, who is an Equal Justice Works/AmeriCorps Attorney Fellow in Miami Law’s Health Rights Clinic, where she provides legal representation to low-income and disabled veterans and their families in South Florida. Lastly, Sharon Booth, JD ’95, who is the Assistant Director of Public Interest Programs for Miami Law’s HOPE Public Interest Resource Center addressed programming and community advocacy projects to further the mission of instilling a pro bono ethic in all of students.
The panel discussion was kicked off by SVA, Miami Law Chapter founder and president 3L Noel Christian Pace, who is a Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and an Equal Justice Works/AmeriCorpsJD Veterans Rights Fellow in the Health Rights Clinic. Pace set the stage for the panel discussion by providing facts about some of the legal challenges veterans face in terms of healthcare, housing, and contractual law issues. He also explained how in December 2006, Congress repealed the 144-year-old law that prohibited attorneys from charging a fee for representing veterans in VA benefits claims. The Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006 (Section 101 of Public Law 109-461) took effect on June 20, 2007. This law now allows attorneys to represent veterans much earlier in the VA claims process, and permits them to charge reasonable fees for the representation.
The panel members then elaborated on some more of the legal issues veterans face including, bad conduct discharges, exposure to Agent Orange, and efforts to obtain evidence and records from the government. They then explained how law students can help address the legal problems veterans face through numerous fellowships, internships, and research work now available. These opportunities can provide law students valuable legal experience while helping an underserved portion of society.
The event was organized by SVA Miami Law Chapter co-founder and treasurer, 2L Jessica Neer, who is a Miami Scholar and has worked on veterans issues in the Florida State Legislature, and by SVA Miami Law Chapter secretary 2L Tara Irani. Irani is an Equal Justice Works/AmeriCorpsJD Veterans Rights Fellow in the Health Rights Clinic, and a clinical researcher at the Ryder Trauma Center, where the U.S. Army trains its surgical teams before they deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan.
At the conclusion of the panel discussion, SVA Miami Law Chapter vice president 2L Ashley George addressed the group and provided a testimonial on what a great experience she has had in working on veteran’s cases over the past year. George is a First Lieutenant in the Florida National Guard, an intern in the Health Rights Clinic, and recently represented Miami Law at the SVA’s National Conference in San Antonio, TX.
For more information on how to get involved in legally supporting veterans, please visit the Student Veterans of America (SVA), Miami Law Chapter website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.