Working to expedite veterans' pending claims

The American Bar Association, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, has started the Veterans’ Claims Assistance Network (ABA VCAN) to provide unrepresented veterans with pending disability benefits claims the opportunity to work with lawyers.

The lawyers will help the veterans complete their claims packages for expedited review by Veterans Affairs at no cost to the veterans.

Veterans Affairs is targeting unrepresented veterans with claims that are currently in the claims backlog at the St. Petersburg, Fla., and Chicago regional offices.

The two initial pilot sites were selected by the VA in part because the ABA’s headquarters is in Chicago and because of the community support for veterans in both cities.

The development of the claim is often the longest part of the process that determines whether a veteran is entitled to VA compensation, often taking more than 200 days.

There are 23 million veterans in the United States, and the VA receives 900,000 new claims per year, more than one-third of which are from veterans of the Vietnam era. Claims most suitable for assistance involve incomplete or deficient claims that lack key supporting documents.

“Lawyers fundamentally understand what it takes to assemble evidence and present a persuasive case,” said ABA President James R. Silkenat. “It is a natural fit to engage the legal skills of lawyers with the need of veterans for assistance in making their cases to the VA for disability compensation. The ABA is happy it can assist in expediting the backlogged claims.”

The pilot program will offer pro bono attorney assistance to veterans who do not currently have representation, he said.

Once these claims are fully developed by the volunteer attorneys, the VA will provide expedited review and rating of the claims, and the veterans will sooner receive the disability compensation benefits they have earned and deserve.

Election letters will be sent to preselected veterans in early August. Veterans are eligible to participate if they received a mailed letter from Veterans Affairs that explains their ABA VCAN eligibility.

These letters include specific codes and release forms that are required to participate. Eligible veterans who choose to participate must contact ABA VCAN with the specified letter code within 15 days of the date on the letter. To get started, eligible veterans can contact ABA VCAN by phone, at 312-994-1107, or go online at

Lawyers can volunteer for the program now at