HARRISBURG (Feb. 15, 2005) — The American Bar Association House of Delegates unanimously approved a resolution at its Feb. 14 meeting in Salt Lake City presented by Pennsylvania Bar Association President Michael H. Reed that called for adequate legal representation for millions of military veterans.
Reed called on ABA delegates to support legislation that would repeal existing federal law, 38 U.S.C. 5904. This law prohibits veterans from hiring lawyers to represent them in proceedings before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals or to resolve claims prior to submission to the board.
“Pennsylvania is home to 1.3 million veterans. These brave men and women have given their time, talent and service in defense of the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. Yet, under existing federal law, these veterans are being denied one of the very basic freedoms they have defended – the right to equal justice under the law,” said Reed.
Reed said representatives of paralyzed veterans and other veterans groups brought the issue to the PBA’s attention. In November 2003, the PBA’s Board of Governors and House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly to support enactment of legislation that would repeal the statutory prohibition imposed on veterans who wish to hire an attorney to represent them in connection with their claims for veterans’ benefits.
“No persuasive rationale exists why the veterans’ compensation system cannot be modeled after the Social Security adjudication process, where aggrieved claimants can, if they so choose, retain lawyers at their own expense or on a contingency basis to guide them through all levels of the claim resolution process,” explained Reed.
The New Jersey State Bar Association, the Maryland State Bar Association, the Bar Association of the District of Columbia and the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Assistance to Military Personnel supported Pennsylvania’s resolution before the ABA.