The number of veterans who go without a home on any given night is unacceptable–around 40,000 nationally, HUD estimates. The scars our veterans carry–visible and invisible–render them more susceptible to mental illness, addiction, and homelessness. The Department of Veterans Affairs does offer relief for veterans, but accessing that relief can be extremely complicated and outrageously lengthy. 

HAP believes that veterans are owed a great debt for their service. It’s why we made a commitment with our Veterans Project to ensure any vets who are experiencing or facing homelessness have the best possible legal advice and representation in Philadelphia. Here’s what we did…

  • In 2001, filling a vacuum of veterans law practitioners in Philadelphia, HAP partnered with the VA to establish a monthly legal clinic at the Veterans Multi-Service Center. The VMC long-served as a drop-in center for vets, providing hot meals and social services, and now, legal services.
  • We began steadily connecting vets with VA benefits–some of whom had been denied multiple times or strung along for years, some since the Vietnam War. 
  • These vets had been homeless for years, but with each win, they were finally able to come off the streets into secure, stable, and dignified housing.
  • Word got out. In response to demand, we expanded our veterans legal clinics to several additional locations, including Philadelphia’s VA Medical Center and veteran-specific homeless shelters.

As our understanding of veteran issues grew, so did our approach. With twenty years of experience under our belts, we offer legal services in the following areas to benefit veterans and their families experiencing or facing homelessness:

  • VA Compensation and Pension Benefits.  It’s hard to believe, but many veterans who are entitled to VA benefits are denied these benefits by the VA, too often for indefensible reasons. When we meet veterans whom we know should be receiving a VA pension or compensation, we take up their fight for however long it takes. Whether it’s months or years, we never give up on our veterans because we know we’re their best shot at getting them what they are owed.
  • Discharge Upgrades. All too many veterans unfairly received ”bad paper” discharges. Whether due to unrecognized mental illness or some other miscarriage of justice, we make sure our veteran clients are able to tell the VA their side of the story, often for the first time. Besides the dignity that comes with setting the record straight and receiving recognition for their service, these upgrades lead to income, healthcare, and an array of other services offered by the VA. 
  • Access to VA Healthcare. Vets with Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharges are often summarily denied VA healthcare despite the fact that many are legally eligible for treatment. HAP’s lawyers are committed to ensuring that these veterans receive the treatment they’re entitled to, especially when the VA provides insufficient explanation for denying treatment. In addition, HAP provides wide-spread consultation and education to the  many vets with OTHs who don’t understand their eligibility for treatment at the VA.
  • SOAR. Our SOAR Project remains the quickest and surest path to SSDI/SSI benefits. Whether a veteran’s disability is due to visible or invisible wounds, and whether those wounds were suffered inside or outside of combat, we make sure they get the benefits they need and deserve as American citizens, especially if they are still waiting on the VA for their benefits. For a sense of our success, in 2019 alone, we won $931,577 in SSI/SSDI benefits for 128 vets.
  • Veteran Housing.  Predatory landlords often take advantage of their veteran tenants by forcing them to live in uninhabitable apartments and then filing for eviction when a veteran legally withholds some of the rent. HAP takes up many such disputes in Landlord-Tenant court, and we offer whatever consultation and representation are necessary to keep our veteran clients safely and responsibly housed.
  • Training and Professional Development. HAP’s success has led to national recognition, and we have emerged as a go-to resource on veterans law. HAP staff has traveled as far as Atlanta and Boston to provide trainings and CLE courses to pro-bono attorneys, indirectly benefiting countless vets outside of Philadelphia.

Twenty years later, and HAP remains Philadelphia’s best legal resource for veterans experiencing or facing homelessness. We are committed to this role, and now have three full-time attorneys on staff who practice veterans law. For more information or to volunteer for our Veterans Project, feel free to contact one of them:

Michael Taub, Esq.:  [email protected]

Alie Muolo, Esq.:  [email protected]

Joel Sobel, Esq.:  [email protected]

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Success Stories

2019-HAP veteran client awarded $18,000 in back benefits and nearly $900/month in VA compensation

HAP attorney Michael Taub won an important victory on behalf of a veteran of the US Army. “Tom” served in the army in the late 1970s. While stationed in California, he was attacked by several other soldiers in his barracks. The soldiers beat and raped him. Tom woke up alone and despite needing medical attention, didn’t tell a soul about what happened.

Tom kept this secret until 2018, when he realized that he could no longer hide this trauma. Tom needed help to move forward with his life. Reluctantly, he told a therapist at the VA about the incident. She encouraged him to apply for VA benefits. When Michael met Tom at a shelter, Tom whispered that he wanted to talk privately in HAP’s office. Michael and the veteran met shortly thereafter, discussed what happened to him in the military, and decided to appeal the VA’s denial of the veteran’s benefits. As part of his appeal, Tom, with tears running down his face, testified about the assault at a hearing.

Michael received news that Tom’s appeal was successful. He was awarded $18,000 in back benefits and nearly $900 a month in VA compensation. He also receives about $750 a month in SSDI benefits, so together he will now earn $1,650 each month. This income will enable Tom to move from shelter into a place of his own.

2020-HAP veteran client awarded VA Compensation at 100% rating which more than doubles his monthly benefit amount.

June 2020-HAP attorney Alie Muolo, a member of the HAP Veterans Project and a Duffy Fellow, welcomed the sound of happy tears while on the phone with her client to deliver some long-awaited news.

The client, a 45-year old Marine Corps veteran who served in Bosnia in the ‘90s, had been diagnosed with PTSD after serving in the military. He spent more than half his life trying to navigate the complicated VA appeal system on his own. He was initially denied VA benefits in 1996. As his claim languished in the notoriously long appeal process, he connected with HAP in 2018. At that time, he was service-connected at a 50% rating.

HAP helped direct him through the VA appeal system and he will now receive VA Compensation at a 100% rating, totaling $3,106.04, more than doubling his monthly benefit amount.

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