Law students, led by Goodman Allen Donnelly lawyer, create tool for veterans that earns grant

David Boelzner, a member of the Veterans Benefits Group at Goodman Allen Donnelly, moonlights as an adjunct professor of law at the University of Richmond School of Law, where he teaches, among other courses, a seminar in Veterans Law—with a unique twist. Half of the course is a survey of the VA benefits claims system, the relevant statutes, regulations and case decisions. But the other component of the course, led by co-Professor Paul Birch, introduces students to computer software that enables construction of applications for computers or smart phones, without having to learn how to employ computer coding.

The course was first offered last Spring, and the students constructed a very promising application for screening potential veterans claims. Combining the understanding of veterans law and the claims system gained in the survey with gradual mastery of the computer software, the students developed a screening tool application aimed at someone working with and counseling a veteran claimant, walking through the analytical steps with a series of questions. When the answers to the questions are entered into the program, it generates a quick analysis of the potential for the claim. For example, depending on the data entered, the program may advise that a potential claim for service connection exists but a medical opinion is needed to establish nexus between the disability and events in service. Or it may advise that there is no current eligibility but point the claimant at evidence that would establish eligibility.

The progress was so encouraging and the screening tool so promising that the Virginia Bar Association, through its Veterans Issues Task Force, has provided a $10,000 grant to the Law School for continuation and expansion of the effort. The School believes the program may eventually be useful in other areas of assistance to veterans, such as family and domestic relations issues.