At the suggestion of Connecticut's Commissioner for Veterans Affairs Dr. Linda Schwartz, we discussed the needs of our C-123 veterans with the Yale Veterans Legal Services Clinic. No details here, but Yale has reviewed our situation and has concluded they'd like to help us find pro bono representation to the illegal VA and USAF responses to our C-123 FOIAs, which must be handled by the US District Court in Washington, or the US District Court in Portland for the Air Force FOIA. Although the Clinic is on summer schedule they hope to prepare an in-depth legal analysis of our eligibility for Agent Orange service connection, possibly ready in the early Fall. PLEASE: do not contact at the Clinic as they'd appreciate some time to get into more detail and to work with their own staff on what can be done to help our veterans. We'll publish everything they provide as soon as it is available.
We have also been receiving expert and generous advice regarding Agent Orange claims from San Diego attorney Katrina Eagle, a private attorney first referred to us by the State of Colorado Veteran Affairs director
who emphasized Ms. Eagle's aggressiveness and solid grasp of complex veterans issues. Ms. Eagle has spent months investigating our C-123 contamination and aircrew exposure issue, and the claim we veterans have under current law - and she feels we have "a righteous cause!" She has special insight now into the various letters from VA Compensation Services and the legal errors so readily apparent in them.
As a small firm, she's unable to help us on a pro bono situation, but is ready to apply her extensive background in veterans law and her recent careful examination of the C-123 issue in helping individual veterans. This isn't our sales pitch for her, but it certainly is our pitch that veterans seeking expert legal advice in submitting claims to the Board of Veterans Appeals should consider her. Ms. Eagle wrote:
As discussed, I would honored for you to provide my information to your members. My website has all information and FAQ's but it is worth reminding your members that I do not charge for my assessment of any veteran's denied claim. My initial procedure is fairly straightforward in that I ask for the veteran to send the most recent VA decisional document to me before I have a substantive conversation with the veteran. I require that document so that I can confirm that VA has issued a decision that is still able to be appealed. As noted on my website, I do not charge a fee to review, nor do I charge an upfront retainer fee. I am paid if and only when VA grants past-due benefits that I have litigated on the veteran's behalf. My contingency fee is 20 percent, and I am never paid any portion of a veteran's current or future VA compensation.
Veterans appealing a denied claim can continue to have representation from an experienced veterans service officer from one of the veterans associations, and those services are always free. Selecting a VSO or an attorney to represent you claim is your own decision - both approaches have merits but in my situation, I'd be grateful for the services of an attorney like Ms. Eagle or an equally qualified lawyer specializing in veterans law. One of the reasons in my mind is the difficulty I've seen veterans having getting enough time from the overloaded VSOs, in some cases taking months to communicate, not developing strategies but "going with the flow," caving to VA statements, etc. An attorney walks out of the BVA a winner or a loser, just like the veteran, and fights hard because no win = no fee.