Students in the Penn State Law in University Park Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic work remotely in spring 2021.

Penn State Law Veterans Clinic restarts Military Mondays program

Monday, March 29, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State Law Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic will restart its Military Mondays program on April 12. From 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the second Monday of every month, the Veterans Clinic will offer free legal consultations to veterans and service members at the Starbucks store located at 232 W. College Ave. in State College. This outreach service is part of Starbucks' national Military Mondays Program.

The purpose of Military Mondays is to create a comfortable, accessible setting for the military and veteran community to receive legal advice and counsel. Starbucks has been sponsoring the Military Mondays Program in stores across the nation since 2015. The Veterans Clinic has expertise in appealing disability compensation, pension and education benefits claims before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans and service members may make appointments to discuss VA claims or appeals. Penn State Law students will counsel the attendees under the supervision of Michele Vollmer, clinic director and clinical professor of law. After providing counseling in one-hour appointments, the Veterans Clinic will transfer appropriate VA claims or appeals to its caseload and assist those with VA claims or appeals it cannot accept in finding other legal representation.

Veterans and service members interested in participating in the Veterans Clinic’s Military Mondays program can sign up for an appointment online here. The Veterans Clinic is currently taking appointments for April 12, May 10 and June 14.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, clinic students continue to meet with clients remotely and work on their appeals to obtain benefits. This semester, clinic student Dan Clarke helped a Gulf War veteran to obtain a 100% disability rating and a Pennsylvania National Guard member to increase his disability rating to 90%, while clinic student Scott Tierney has been helping a Vietnam veteran with assessing whether to appeal several disability claims.

Third-year students Alexandra DeBonte and Nicolette Arapis have written an appellate brief and appendices and will be working with an expert on an appeal to be filed with the Board of Veterans Appeals. Second-year law student Zachary Mills is updating an expert opinion and appellate brief while also preparing for an oral argument before the Board of Veterans Appeals. Morgan Harrington, another second-year student, helped to prepare appendices for Mills' client, and is helping her own client, a Vietnam veteran, to file a claim for total unemployability.

Clinic students Shane Kaliszewski and Matt Nichols have been assisting a Marine with drafting a federal complaint for military retirement back pay. The clinic’s work in prior semesters was successful in helping the Marine to obtain a 100% VA disability rating in December 2020. Another clinic student, Carter Westphal, is writing a law review article to advocate for Vietnam veterans by expanding the list of diseases presumptively service connected for Agent Orange exposure. Professor Vollmer and the clinic students will participate in a practice moot court with the Bob Parsons Veterans Advocacy Clinic of the University of Baltimore School of Law in preparation for that clinic’s oral argument before the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in the case Orlando Guadalupe v. Robert L. Wilkie.

Clinic students also are working with Professor Sandra Allain, director of the Law, Policy and Engineering Initiative at Penn State, and her students Wenbo Liu, Sabrina Rosta and Suryoday Basak in the ENGR 897 Design4Justice course, to design a technology tool to assist rural veterans in Pennsylvania. The technology tool, to be developed by the student team of engineers and law students, will be presented at Georgetown Law’s Iron Tech Invitational competition, to be held April 23-29.

The Veterans and Servicemembers’ Legal Clinic trains Penn State Law in University Park students to provide legal representation to veterans and current service members in specialized and complex areas of statutory and regulatory law, and to advocate on behalf of veterans and those serving in the military on policy matters at both the state and federal levels. For more information on the Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic, visit its website or email [email protected].