Indiana veterans could have more access to legal help when a state law takes effect July 1.
The legislation - passed earlier this year by the General Assembly - allows the state's law schools to create clinics that will allow students to guide veterans through the disability claims process.
"The Veterans Affairs disability claims process is a challenging and often overwhelming bureaucracy for our veterans," said Emily Hildebrand, the director of development and public policy for Hoosiers Veterans Assistance Foundation.
"I am appreciative that members of the General Assembly are doing all they can to offer assistance to veterans and I am hopeful the law schools participating in this program will be able to help veterans successfully navigate the claims process," she said.
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Indiana University Maurer School of Law Clinical Professor Carwina Weng is the director of a disability clinic that currently focuses on Medicaid and social security issues. The clinic will now add a focus on veterans disability claims as part of its services.
Six to eight law students who work in the clinic will assist vets in the process.
Weng said that law clinics are becoming a trend in helping veterans with the challenging process of disability claims.
"I think it is a huge service to the veterans and I am excited to become part of this," Weng said. "There is definitely student interest in the issue as well."
Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, the author of the bill, believe the clinics will be good for all involved.
"This is a win-win for veterans and law school students," Banks said.
Zent, a co-author of the bill, said the clinics will be a great service for veterans.
"If Washington can't get it right, we want veterans put on notice that we are working at the state level to help veterans," Zent said.
Indiana University expressed interest and helped create the program, including soliciting grants.
Funding for the program will be determined during the legislature's 2015 budget session. Until then, the program would be funded by donations and sponsorships.
Allie Nash is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.