A $10,000 grant from The Virginia Bar Association (VBA) Foundation will help expand a University of Richmond School of Law program benefitting the veterans’ community.
Richmond Law launched a course in spring 2015 equipping students to create an interactive software program to assist veterans in making benefits claims. Students learn about legal issues affecting veterans, while also creating software applications to allow counselors to guide veterans through a step-by-step process to determine if they are eligible for particular benefits.
“There were conversations going on around the same time about how the law school could support veterans and integrate technology into legal education, so we asked ‘Can we do both?’” said Tara Casey, director of the Carrico Center for Pro Bono Service. “The answer was yes.”
Richmond Law worked with The VBA’s Veterans Issues Task Force to secure initial funding for the course, now in its second semester. The team will use this additional $10,000 VBA Foundation grant to research platforms for the tool and explore expansion. It will focus on getting the app into the hands of veterans and making it as accessible as possible.
In that way, it’s a course that “bridges the justice gap” in its approach, according to Dave Boelzner, an adjunct faculty member in practice at Goodman, Allen, Donnelly, who co-teaches the course with computer services librarian Paul Birch.
“That’s what’s exciting to me,” said Bob Barrett, a member of The VBA’s Veterans Issues Task Force, who worked with Casey to procure the initial seed money for the program. “You’re going to reach more of an audience with this.”
“I think that there are a lot of other issues that lend themselves to this sort of software platform database,” said Barrett, including discharge upgrades or family law issues.
The VBA formed the Veterans Issues Task Force in 2010 to assist veterans and their families with their legal issues. The task force has helped more than 300 veterans and their families since its founding by connecting them with lawyer-volunteers. To learn more, visit vba.org.