For the 4,300 veterans who were class members in Sabo et al. v. United States, becoming eligible in January for a benefits upgrade through a settlement with the Department of Defense was just the first chapter of their post-combat struggle. Those veterans, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, must now claim those benefits.
That’s where Hewlett-Packard’s legal team comes in. In February, HP partnered with the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP), a non-profit veterans advocacy group, and law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, who jointly represented the class, to counsel veterans through the benefits claims process. Those veterans had received a low disability rating upon their discharge from the military. Under the settlement, they’re eligible to receive disability retirement, as well as health insurance for themselves, their spouses and their children.
“It’s the difference between getting medical care and not getting medical care,” says Amanda Smith, pro bono partner at Morgan Lewis and a NVLSP board member. “It’s an incredibly rewarding thing to get them what is owed to them.”
HP got involved with the Sabo class members in February after General Counsel Michael Holston charged his pro bono team with developing a signature project for the legal department. The work with military servicemen and women, however, extends beyond Sabo: HP’s attorneys and legal support staff also directly represent active-duty service personnel and veterans in legal proceedings, and work with the American Legion to help get benefits for veterans who don’t have lawyers.
“We have something for everybody,” says Amy Schuh, HP’s vice president and associate general counsel, compliance, and co-chair of its pro bono program. “There’s an opportunity for a litigator who likes to write briefs but doesn’t otherwise get the chance to. There’s an opportunity for someone who wants to help out by reviewing medical records at his leisure.”
While aiding veterans is a new HP focus, the technology company has had a formal pro bono program in place since 2007. Continuing projects include work with the homeless in the Bay Area and insurance claims assistance after disasters such as wildfires.
“The level of engagement and commitment is remarkable,” Schuh says. “Our teams have done an extraordinary job of finding opportunities that would be of interest and getting people to go. All of that work is out of a personal commitment to do good.”
Does your legal department have an outstanding pro bono success story? Share it with InsideCounsel, and we may feature your team in an upcoming issue.