February Volunteer Feature: The City Bar Justice Center Honors Howrey LLP for Outstanding Support of the Veterans Assistance Project
One of the 11 firms that helped to found the Veteran's Assistance Project in the fall of 2007, Howrey attorneys continue to tirelessly advocate on behalf of the City's low-income veterans. Led by partner Bill Purcell, the firm's attorneys have already taken on representation of eight veterans through the Project. One case in particular highlights Howrey's unyielding commitment to the highest level of advocacy.
Mr. I., a Vietnam veteran, had been seeking disability benefits for PTSD for a few years when he attended the Project's first clinic in October of 2007. Mr. I. had experienced routine mortar and rocket attacks while stationed at Tuy Hoa Air Force Base, and his nightmares and other symptoms had worsened with time. Despite being diagnosed and treated at the Brooklyn Veterans Hospital for PTSD, the Department of Veterans Affairs had refused to grant Mr. I.'s claim for PTSD benefits due to a lack of corroborative evidence.
Because he was assigned to a special operations unit, Mr. I.'s personnel record does not plainly indicate an assignment to Tuy Hoa.
Bill Purcell (pictured at left) and Charles Manice (pictured below right), a then first-year associate at Howrey who has subsequently worked on two additional veterans' cases, took on representation of Mr. I. After extensive research, they were able to find new military evidence that placed Mr. I. on the base at the time of attacks. They also obtained an affidavit from a fellow service member confirming Mr. I.'s presence. In order to maintain a June 2005 effective award date, Howrey prepared a Motion for Reconsideration based upon error and new military evidence, and submitted it to the Chairman of the Board of Veterans Appeals. In an important recognition of Mr. I.'s service and the attorneys' hard work, the Board granted Mr. I.'s Motion to Reconsider. After the submission of additional evidence and argument, an expanded panel of the Board of Veterans Appeals recognized that Mr. I has service-related PTSD.
In November, Mr. I. began receiving $845 a month with an additional $28,000 in back-dated pay. Most attorneys would have been satisfied with such a big win, but while Charles was excited, he called it an incomplete victory. The VA had rated Mr. I.'s disability at 50%, not 100%, and Charles found the VA's arguable basis for 50% weak. "For now, Mr. I. will continue to receive benefits at 50% retroactive to 2005," says Charles, "but I will not close this case until I have exhausted all appeals to obtain 100% disability for him."
Carol Bockner, Director of Pro Bono Initiatives at the City Bar Justice Center, raves about Howrey's work. "Bill Purcell has been a huge supporter of the Project from the very beginning and continues to take cases while mentoring younger attorneys," she says. "We are incredibly grateful to Charles for his tireless work on this and other cases," she continues. "With his assistance, Mr. I. was awarded not only a life-changing monetary reward, but also long-sought recognition from the VA of his experiences in Vietnam. Charles' unwillingness to close the case after the first win shows a commitment to thorough representation of Mr. I. like that to any paying client. That sort of excellence in pro bono is a reflection of both the individual and the culture of the firm. It speaks very highly of Howrey, and we look forward to a long relationship with the firm and its attorneys."