Veterans Advocacy Clinic

History

The Veterans Advocacy Clinic emerged after a decade of independent pro bono work for veterans by Professor Hillary Wandler. She began representing veterans on their VA claims and appeals in 2006, after her father faced difficulty with the VA. In 2009, Wandler accepted a teaching position at ABIII Law School, and continued her work, as students began to work alongside her as an external clinic placement. In 2017, the Veterans Advocacy Clinic was established as an in-house clinic at the School. The Clinic serves a dual purpose: to serve low-income veterans in need of legal services for VA claims or appeals or DoD discharge upgrades; and to give students hands-on experience practicing law in a complex setting. To these ends, students handle veterans’ cases under the supervision of Prof. Wandler.

Mission Statement

Through legal representation, legal consultation, and outreach, the Veterans Advocacy Clinic will account for long-term impacts of military service on disabled or improperly discharged Montana veterans. By holding systems that are designed to support veterans accountable, the VAC ensures appropriate income support for disabled veterans and their families, ensures adequate and competent healthcare to veterans recovering from physical and mental trauma, and ensures that a veteran has knowledge and control over his or her personal military history. 

Veteran Information

If you are a veteran in need of our legal assistance, please follow the link to our intake form. If you are having trouble with the form, please call (406) 243-4174 for assistance.

Student Information

Clinic Director: Professor Hillary Wandler

Prerequisite: Professional Responsibility

Areas of Emphasis: Administrative law setting involving VA claims for service-connected disability benefits, VA claims for increased disability rating, applications for discharge upgrade, and consultation with practitioners on various legal issues for veterans, including family law. Sample projects include:

  • Develop an original claim for service-connected disability compensation
  • Develop a claim for increased disability rating
  • Research and write an appellate brief to the Board of Veterans Appeals
  • Conduct a hearing before the VA Regional Office Decision Review Officer or Board of Veterans Appeals administrative law judge
  • Prepare a veteran for a hearing before the VA Regional Office or Board of Veterans Appeals
    Research, investigate, and write an application for discharge upgrade
  • Write a letter advising a veteran on the chances of success in a disability claim

The Veterans Advocacy Clinic provides pro bono legal advocacy to veterans and their families in rural and urban communities across Montana.  By partnering with Montana Legal Services Association, the clinic prioritizes claims that will provide veterans and their families with sustaining income.  Through the clinic, students will also learn veterans disability law, the law of discharge upgrade, and the procedural issues arising in both settings.  Thus, students will learn to provide excellent advocacy in complex administrative systems like the VA, which will prepare them to serve veterans in practice. 

Students will be performing supervised legal work before the VA Regional Office, Board of Veterans Appeals, U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and Department of Defense boards addressing military discharge upgrade.