Korean War Vet Receives Justice: Wins Disability Compensation for Serious Hand Injury
Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program Assists Veteran in Appealing BVA Claim Denial
Many veterans don’t know that they can get a free attorney to help them appeal a veterans benefits claim denial at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program (www.vetsprobono.org) is a nonprofit that provides free attorneys to any veteran or survivor with a viable case at the court.
“I was in the Navy for about seven years, including the Korean War,” Mr. Henderson says. “We were over in the Pacific, letting boats off the ship, when the friend I was working with fell down. I kept telling him to get up, I couldn’t hold the ropes all by myself. The next thing I knew was my hand was being pulled into one of the bits.”
When he took off his glove, Henderson discovered his middle finger was bleeding and cut down to the bone. He went to the sick bay, where he lost consciousness and when he came to, he found his hand swathed in bandages. After recovering, he continued on active duty another three years before being honorably discharged from the Armed Forces.
Years later, his injury during his military service would come back to haunt him. In 2000, he put his hand in his pocket and couldn’t take it out. His finger had locked, and continued to lock off and on until finally he went to the VA Medical Center in Portland, Oregon. “They let me know I would have to have an operation,” he recalls. “In fact, I had three operations, and the finger still gives me problems.”
Because of his injury while serving in the Navy and resulting damage to his hand, Henderson was qualified for VA disability compensation. He filed a VA claim requesting compensation but his claim was denied by the VA, all the way up through the Board of Veterans Appeals.
He needed to file an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, the next step after the BVA denial. In the court, Henderson’s case arguing for disability compensation would be challenged by a VA attorney who was familiar with the court’s procedures and veteran’s law. He knew he needed legal assistance for his case. But he couldn’t afford to pay a lawyer. If he lost his appeal at the court, his case would end and he would not receive disability compensation.
After trying other options, Henderson connected with the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program. “I got a pamphlet from D.C. about the program. I called. They referred me over to Stacy [my volunteer attorney], who was very good,” he remembers. “She stayed in touch the whole time. She was with me all the way. Up ’til then, I had done it all by myself. VA turned me down so many times in Portland.”
His volunteer attorney carefully studied his case, wrote needed documents, and donated her time and expertise to represent Henderson at the Court. She successfully won his disability benefits. Her successful appeal on Henderson’s behalf didn’t just bring him past-due disability benefits. “Basically, it changed my life,” he says. “I used to get a check for about $110 a month, now I get over $1,000. And I can finally get a car. I love it!
“This was a Thanksgiving where I was truly thankful,” he says. “Anything that happens to a vet—he needs to go to Pro Bono. They will do the job for you.”
The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program provides free, volunteer attorneys to represent veterans appealing their benefits denials to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Learn more at www.vetsprobono.org.