Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program and Discharge Upgrade Program

The Veterans Consortium provides free legal services to veterans through its Pro Bono Program and Discharge Upgrade Program. 

What is the Veterans Consortium? 

The Veterans Consortium made up of four national organizations that provide services and resources for veterans: 

What is the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program? 

The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program is a national nonprofit organization funded by the U.S. Congress. The Pro Bono Program connects veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors in need with specially-trained volunteer attorneys who may advise and represent them for free when they have been unjustly denied benefits or compensation earned during military service. The three matters that they assist with are: 

  • Appealing for veterans benefits,
  • Discharge upgrades, and
  • Applying for United States citizenship through service

Appeals for Veterans’ claims 

When a veteran, family member, survivor, or caregiver applies for VA benefits and their request is denied, the person who applied may appeal their request. Appeals areheardare heard at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Individuals are not required to have an attorney, but they are required to follow the court rules and procedures when appealing a VA decision. Court rules can be complicated and hard to navigate without an attorney to help. Apply with the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program to get help.  

What is the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims? 

The U.S Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) reviews decisions of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA). It is the only court, it has exclusive national jurisdiction and is not a part of the VA. 

While the BVA is part of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), the CAVC is an independent federal court. The BVA no longer provides the final decision in a veteran’s claim for benefits or compensation earned from military service, because BVA denials may be appealed to the CAVC. 

Who qualifies for the Pro Bono Veterans’ Claims Appeals Program? 

To qualify for the program, the person must be a veteran or a relative, caregiver, or survivor of a veteran whose VA claim has been denied by the BVA and they  want to appeal the decision, then they  may qualify to receive an attorney to represent them  for free at the CAVC. 

In order to receive the free legal services of an attorney in an appeal to the CAVC, they  must: 

  • Be a veteran, family member, caregiver, or survivor of a veteran,
  • Have had a VA claim was denied by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, 
  • Not have an attorney to help, 
  • Have a low-income, and
  • Have a case that contains at least one possible issue that could be argued in their  favor.

Important: If someone  wants to appeal a BVA denial, they  must do so within 120 days of the mailing date of the BVA’s decision. 

Extensions of this deadline are only granted due to rare circumstances (Example: extended hospitalization), so it is strongly recommended that anyone who wants to appeal a BVA denial of their VA claim should do so as quickly as possible. 

Why is it helpful to be represented by an attorney? 

Although the person appealing the VA claim doesnot need to be represented by an attorney, having an attorney is helpful because an attorney: will not only already know the rules and procedures that govern appeals to the CAVC but also will be able to: 

  • Knows the rules and procedures to govern appeals,
  • Communicates with CAVC staff, 
  • Negotiates with VA attorneys and staff, 
  • Prepares and files all  paperwork 
  • May ask for and conduct oral argument (if appropriate) 

How may someone apply for the Pro Bono Program? 

Applications for the Pro Bono Program are completed in one of two ways: 

  • An online application
  • By downloading, printing, completing, then submitting a set of application forms by fax, email, or mail

What if the Pro Bono Program is unable to assist me? 

If the Pro Bono Program is unable to assist someone because it is unable to determine if the  case contains at least one possible issue that can be argued in their  favor, they  will still be invited to contact the Program’s Helpline at (855) 446-9678 if they  have questions about the CAVC’s processes and procedures and/or need assistance with their  paperwork. 

Learn more about and/or apply for the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program or call (202) 628-8164 or (888) 838-7727 (toll-free). 

Discharge Upgrade Program 

What is the Veterans Consortium Discharge Upgrade Pro Bono Program? 

The Veterans Consortium Discharge Upgrade Pro Bono Program provides legal support and representation to veterans with discharge upgrade appeals. These matters are heard by their service’s Discharge Review Board. 

Learn more information on upgrading a military discharge.

Who qualifies for the Discharge Upgrade Pro Bono Program? 

In order to receive the free legal services of an attorney in a discharge upgrade appeal, the veteran must: 

  • Have been discharged under conditions Other than Honorable (OTH) or Undesirable,
  • Have been diagnosed with or exhibit symptoms of PTSD, TBI, MST, or another mental health condition, and 
  • have a case that contains at least one meritorious/viable issue that can be argued in their  favor 

Learn more information on types of military discharge.

How does a person apply for the Discharge Upgrade Program? 

To apply for the services of the Discharge Upgrade Pro Bono Program, applicants must complete the Discharge Upgrade Program Intake form. The intake form asks for information concerning the applicant’s contact information, military service, and mental health status. Individuals will need a copy of their DD-214 and other documents to support their claims. 

Individuals may apply online. 

Individuals may also apply via mail, email, phone, or fax: 

  1. Download the intake form, 
  2. Print it out,  
  3. Fill it out, 

Submit the form. Mailing Address: 

The Veterans Consortium 
Discharge Upgrade Program 
2101 L Street NW, Suite 840 
Washington, DC 20037 
Phone: (202) 733-3324 
Fax: (202) 628-8169 

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Learn more about and/or apply for the Veterans Consortium Discharge Upgrade Program or call (202) 733-3324. 

Veterans Naturalization Assistance Program 

Veterans who are not United States Citizens, but would like to apply for citizenship, the Veterans Consortium Veterans Naturalization Assistance Program may be able to help. Those that meet the following criteria are eligible: 

  • We active duty service members, 
  • Received an Honorable or General Under Honorable Conditions Discharge, and 
  • Have a copy of their DD-214 

How does someone apply or qualify for the Veterans Naturalization Assistance Program? 

Those that may qualify for the program can contact the Veterans Consortium at (202) 733-3337 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sources and further reading 

U.S. Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – Board of Veterans’Appeals

Veterans Consortium

 

This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

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