Paul Schwen

  • Hosted by National Veterans Legal Services Program
  • Sponsored by Covington & Burling LLP, Northrop Grumman Corporation
  • Service location Washington, District of Columbia
  • Law school American University Washington College of Law
  • Issue area Veterans' Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2016
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

The Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) has reported that the average amount of time from the filing of an appeal of disability denial to the BVA decision is 1,407 days. In addition to already long systemic delays, potentially thousands of veterans’ appeals have been effectively warehoused by the VA Regional Offices (“RO”). In these cases, ROs have not completed the procedures necessary for the appeal to advance to the BVA for decision. The BVA is required to decide appeals in the order in which they are placed on the BVA’s docket; however, because some ROs are not certifying appeals to the BVA in a timely manner, the already long delay is protracted for some veterans. The result is that veterans who would have had their appeals decided are still waiting on a RO to complete a one-page VA Form that would move the process forward. This systemic and illegal delay causes veterans financial hardship, lack of access to VA health care, and lack of faith in the VA.

Paul provided legal services to disabled veterans whose appeals of initial disability denials have been systemically delayed for years and helped to improve the VA appellate process currently in place.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Paul has:

  • Provided legal services to 295 veterans and placed 34 veterans with pro bono attorneys for full representation
  • Assisted over 100 veterans in getting their appeals certified to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, which has already resulted in benefits being granted to 28 veterans to date
  • Contributed to filing a class action petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims with the goal of securing relief for all veterans suffering from delays in the appeals process
  • Delivered three “Know Your Rights” presentations to inform more than 50 veterans about how to apply for a discharge upgrade
  • Trained service providers working with senior veterans about services available for their clients
  • Organized and conducted four discharge upgrade clinics through which nearly 90 veterans received brief services and advice
  • Worked closely with sponsor pro bono volunteers who served clients in all areas of the project

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Paul plans to:

  • Continue helping veterans as a staff attorney at NVLSP to assist veterans with applications for discharge upgrades
  • Provide support to high impact litigation addressing the systemic delays in the VA’s appellate procedures to bring relief to thousands of veterans’ benefits claimants
  • Organize and lead pro bono legal clinics to assist veterans in seeking upgrades to their discharge characterization
  • Continue training and mentoring pro bono attorneys to help veterans in their legal claims against the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs


“Always Faithful” to My Fellow Veterans

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