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Sen. McCaskill Encourages Pro Bono Work On Behalf Of Veterans

Elle Moxley
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill addresses members of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association Thursday at a seminar on veterans issues.

It shouldn't take a lawyer to help veterans navigate a complex benefit system, but it often does.

That was the message U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, delivered Thursday at the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association's "Veterans Come First" seminar, where she encouraged local attorneys to take on pro bono work around veterans issues.

McCaskill, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, says veterans are entitled to the benefits they were promised when they agreed to serve.

"I'm not saying we should make good on them after they've had to arm-wrestle a bureaucracy to the ground," she says. "We need to make sure we get them get what they deserve quickly and efficiently."

Older veterans, especially those who served in Vietnam and face health hazards due to Agent Orange exposure, often need a lawyer's help proving they served because many records were lost in a 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in Overland, Missouri.

McCaskill says veterans of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are less likely to have problems verifying their service, but their benefits can be the target of scammers.

"Nothing has broken my heart more than these online, for-profit universities who have figured out how to lure veterans into their web, take their GI benefits and deliver them squat – that's a technical term," McCaskill told seminar participants.

She says it was encouraging that so many attorneys wanted to learn about opportunities to help veterans, the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association had to turn some away when registration reached capacity.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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