Richard Prebil

  • Hosted by Military Assistance Project
  • Sponsored by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP
  • Service location Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Law school Villanova University School of Law
  • Issue area Veterans' Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2017
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Richard advocates for and assists low-income veterans in applying for service-connected/pension benefits and discharge upgrades through direct representation, education, and outreach to not only veterans but community service providers and the legal community.

There are well over 1 million veterans in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Poverty among veterans is a persistent problem and a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks. Because of the under-diagnosis of PTSD, TBI, and other service-connected injuries, thousands of veterans have been unjustly discharged from the military and denied veterans’ benefits. While procedures are in place to have veterans’ discharges reviewed, these procedures are extremely difficult to navigate, by a veteran alone.

Fellowship Highlights

In the first year, Richard has:

  • Helped a veteran receive 100% service-connected disability benefits from the VA, along with over $35,000 in back benefits.
  • Provided brief services, advice, or referral to over 100 veterans, current military members, or their spouses; filed and received positive decisions for 8 individuals; filed and awaiting decisions for 13 individuals; and continues to represent over 80 individuals.
  • What’s NextTrained 10 attorneys at Morgan Lewis and over 60 local law students in the areas of veterans’ law and policy as well as trauma-informed legal practice, adding to the community of veterans’ advocates who understand the impact of an individual’s trauma history.

Next Steps

In the next year, Richard plans to:

  • Study the feasibility of (and if possible, implement) partnerships with the Philadelphia VA Medical Center and the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania to expand access to civil legal services for Philadelphia-area veterans.
  • Provide education and outreach events at current partnership locations, as well as new organizations throughout Pennsylvania.
  • File at least 15 VA service-connected claims (initial and appeals) and discharge upgrades (with the assistance of Morgan Lewis attorneys)
  • Establish a sustainability and replicability plan to ensure the progress made during this project remains in effect. This includes the possibility of replicability at local area law schools and the creation of an “Institutional Memory Database/Repository” to hold information on practice, procedure, policy, and research related to veterans’ administrative law and other veteran/military specific concerns.

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