September 2018 Volunteer Spotlight: Loeb & Loeb, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Bank of America Merrill Lynch Support CBJC's Veteran's Assistance Project

The City Bar Justice Center’s Veterans Assistance Project (VAP) provides disabled, low-income veterans in New York City with pro bono legal assistance on issues related to claims for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. VAP’s successful advocacy relies on pro bono attorneys’ creativity and hard work, and the project is pleased to highlight recent wins by three different attorney teams from Loeb & Loeb, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

After a year of advocacy, Loeb & Loeb partner Jon Hollis and associate Peter Pottier obtained a 100% disability rating for an Army veteran pursuing an Individual Unemployability (“IU”) claim. Jon and Peter’s client had started his own moving company following his Army service, but had to discontinue his business because of service-connected depression and anxiety. The IU relief that Jon and Peter secured provided their client with increased financial security, as well as a sense that he had been compensated for the loss of his business due to the severity of his service-connected disabilities. This was the first time Jon and Peter had worked on an IU claim, and in addition to the skills development that the work afforded them, they “found the matter fulfilling because [they] were able to find a way to obtain a positive result for the client different from the simple increase of rating that he had originally sought.”

VAP also benefits from pro bono advocacy by law firm and corporate legal group partnerships, and is pleased to highlight recent wins by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer/Bank of America Merrill Lynch, teams that labored for well over a year on behalf of two veterans. Freshfields partner Matthew Herman and counsel Jeremy Barr along with Bank of America Merrill Lynch assistant general counsel and vice president Matthew Iwamaye, assisted by Freshfields associates Telisa Gunter and Maribeth Charvet, recently secured critical relief for an Army veteran who served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom II. Their advocacy brought their client a 50% disability rating for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), for which he will receive approximately $850 per month and a year of retroactive disability pay. A second team, led by Freshfields partner Valerie Ford Jacob and Bank of America Merrill Lynch managing director and associate general counsel Todd Baskin, with assistance by Freshfields former senior associate Christopher J. Capuzzi and associate Sean Hinton, secured important relief for a Navy veteran who served in the Gulf War era. Their client was granted an increase in disability benefits for tendonitis in his rotator cuff and granted disability benefits for tendonitis in his wrist, all resulting in approximately $4,000 of additional benefits per year.

The Freshfields/BOA teams’ Army veteran client, who served on two very dangerous deployments, had previously submitted claims to the VA that all had been denied. Their Navy veteran client previously had been granted only a 10% disability rating for his shoulder. In addition to securing critical financial support for their clients, the teams were able to get to know these veterans and their stories. As Freshfields counsel Jeremy Barr noted, “successfully advocating for meaningful awards to compensate these veterans for their service-related injuries was a great way to thank them for their patriotism.”

Kent Eiler, the City Bar Justice Center attorney who directs VAP, noted that all of these recent successes reflected “the remarkable diligence and care these attorneys expended on behalf of their clients through a system where the difference between failure and success is often whether the veteran has attorney assistance.” To learn more about VAP or to support its work, please contact the project’s Coordinator, Logan Campbell, or the Justice Center’s Communications and Development Coordinator, Michael Fil.

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