Photo of Matthew Handley

Matthew Handley

  • Hosted by National Veterans Legal Services Program
  • Sponsored by Lockheed Martin Corporation
  • Service location Washington, District of Columbia
  • Law school Seton Hall University School of Law
  • Issue area Health Care, Veterans' Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2022
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Matthew’s  (he/him/his) project utilizes investigation, litigation, and advocacy to compel the military to stop wrongfully denying medical retirement benefits to qualifying veterans.

After two decades at war, many of the 200,000 veterans discharged each year bear more than the physical wounds of war. They also exhibit the invisible “signature wounds” of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan— mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Wounded and ill service members who are unable to serve due to their disabilities are entitled to processing for military retirement. But each year, the military declines to medically retire thousands of servicemembers with serious physical and mental health conditions. Instead, these service members are discharged without proper processing and rating for their disabilities. Comprehensive policy reform is needed to change how the military treats wounded veterans.

Fellowship Plans

During his Fellowship, Matthew will identify veterans who should have been medically retired and work with the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP)’s pro bono partners to bring retroactive medical retirement claims. He will also conduct factual investigations of the Department of Defense (DoD)’s current policies, identify systemic issues, and bring impact litigation to facilitate systematic reform. He will create a White Paper identifying systemic problems with the DoD’s current policies governing medical retirements and use this to advocate for new DoD regulations or legislation requiring consistent and equitable evaluation of all potentially eligible servicemembers for medical retirement.

When I was a soldier, I swore to never leave a fallen comrade. Now, as a veteran, I plan to fulfill that oath by using my skills as a lawyer to help my comrades obtain the benefits they have earned.

Matthew Handley /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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