Both cases involved U.S. Air Force veterans with disability claims. Law students Kirsten Lilly, James Dorsey, C.J. Reid and Rachel Roush represented their clients in the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
In the first case, the students argued that their client, Thomas R. Wooten, was entitled to an earlier effective date for special monthly compensation payments due to service-connected disabilities.
The students accepted Wooten’s case early in the fall semester and had to review and analyze more 10,000 pages of administrative records before developing their winning argument.
“Mr. Wooten’s case was expedited, so the students had to prepare in an extremely condensed period of time,” said Jennifer Oliva, director of the Veterans Advocacy Clinic.
The court’s ruling on September 30, 2016, was in favor of Wooten, setting aside an earlier decision by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals to deny his claim. Wooten is still being represented by the Veterans Advocacy Clinic.
The clinic students’ second client was Donald R. Middleton, a Vietnam War veteran who suffers from nervous system disorders due to exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides.
The Board of Veterans’ Appeals had denied Middleton a medical examination. However, the students argued that the board had failed to provide adequate reasons for the denial and that their client was entitled to service-connected disability compensation.
“They dedicated time over their winter holiday break to review Mr. Middleton’s record and advance successful arguments on his behalf,” said Oliva.
On January 12, 2017, counsel for the Veterans Administration agreed and remanded the case back to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals for further consideration. The Veterans Advocacy Clinic will continue to represent Middleton until his case concludes.
“I could not be more proud of my students’ hard work on behalf of these two veteran heroes,” Oliva said. “These cases exemplify WVU Veterans Advocacy Clinic’s purpose of providing legal assistance to West Virginia’s veterans in need and training our WVU law students to be superlative legal advocates.”
The Veterans Advocacy Clinic represented both clients because of its partnership with the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program based in Washington, DC.