Clinic awarded $1M for veterans’ advocacy

Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust gift

Credit: Tony Rinaldo (From left) Christopher J. Clay, general counsel, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Charitable Service Trust; Elizabeth Gwin, attorney and DAV Charitable Service Trust Fellow in the Veterans Legal Clinic, Legal Services Center; HLS Clinical Professor Daniel Nagin; Richard E. Marbes, chairman of the board of directors, DAV Charitable Service Trust; HLS Dean Martha Minow; Juan Arguello, ’15; Zoe Bedell ’16; Lisa Dealy, assistant dean, Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs at HLS.

In August, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Charitable Service Trust significantly increased an existing grant to expand its support of the Veterans Legal Clinic and other veterans’ advocacy program at Harvard Law School’s WilmerHale Legal Services Center. The grant, which now totals $1 million to cover four years of veterans’ advocacy, supports the clinic’s work in a number of practice areas including federal court appeals of veterans’ benefit denials, discharge upgrades, estate planning, combatting predatory student lending, and IRS tax controversies. Among other things, the grant enabled the clinic to hire attorney Elizabeth R. Gwin as the DAV Charitable Service Trust Fellow, where she works across several of these practice areas.

A portion of the grant is devoted to launching the DAV Distinguished Speaker Series at HLS in collaboration with the HLS Armed Forces Association (AFA). The first lecture will be delivered by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald, who will be introduced by Senator Jack Reed ’82, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. McDonald, also a West Point graduate and former CEO of the Proctor & Gamble Company, will speak at the law school on November 24.

HLS Dean Martha Minow said: “This exceptionally supportive grant from the DAV Charitable Service Trust is real cause for celebration because it supports expansion of critically important legal services for our veterans and great opportunities for our talented and dedicated students.  Even in the short span of time since the launch of our Veterans Clinic, our students’ advocacy has produced landmark victories on behalf of veterans, and I am so grateful that with this terrific grant so many more can obtain help in securing benefits and fair treatment for those who have so selflessly served our nation.”

Richard E. Marbes, chairman of the board of directors of the DAV Charitable Service Trust, formally presented the grant at the law school on October 1, during an event that included Minow, a strong supporter of veterans, student leaders of the AFA, and others. They also visited the Legal Services Center in Jamaica Plain, where the Veterans Clinic is located. “The DAV Charitable Service Trust recognizes the importance of pro bono legal services for veterans,” Marbes said later. “Harvard Law School is not only providing these services, but is instilling a commitment to veterans in some of the best of the next generation of lawyers. We share that vision and are proud to support it.”

The DAV Charitable Service Trust is a national nonprofit that supports direct services to ill, injured or wounded veterans. It was established in 1986 by leaders of the DAV national organization to support initiatives not traditionally offered through other veterans’ programs and service organizations.

“It is a true honor to have the Charitable Service Trust’s support,” said Daniel Nagin, HLS Clinical Professor of Law, who founded the clinic in 2012 at the Legal Services Center, where he is faculty director. “We are humbled and privileged to have the opportunity to advocate on behalf of disabled veterans and to work every day to help close the justice gap for those who have worn the uniform.”