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Wounded soldiers who allege that the government is downplaying their injuries and cheating them out of benefits have some new legal ammunition: three major law firms offering free legal services. Concerned that injured soldiers are getting a raw deal upon returning home, three firms � Foley & Lardner; Atlanta’s King & Spalding; and New York’s LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae � have offered to do pro bono work on behalf of veterans who are appealing low disability ratings made by the government. Those ratings dictate how much money injured veterans are entitled to, along with any medical and retirement benefits. According to attorneys, numerous veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have claimed that the military is underrating their injuries, thus shortchanging them of benefits they’ve earned. Firms gear up Ehren Halse, one of 15 King & Spalding attorneys who has volunteered to help the veterans, said, “it’s outrageous to think that these people would suffer in the line of duty and then not be given their disability.” King & Spalding has a training seminar dealing with disability rankings scheduled for June 20. Elizabeth Sandza, a partner in the Washington office of LeBoeuf Lamb who heads the pro bono program, said that “if veterans are not getting what they deserve, that’s wrong. We would like to right that wrong.” Steven C. Lambert, who chairs the pro bono practice in the Washington office of Foley & Lardner, said his firm runs training seminars to assist the injured veterans, scheduled for June 19 and June 25. About 20 attorneys have signed up to help. Officials from Walter Reed, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Department of Defense were unavailable for comment. Concerns about the disability rating system coincided with recent media reports that exposed poor conditions at Walter Reed, sparking a congressional investigation. Participating attorneys will focus much of their energies on helping injured soldiers appeal their low disability rankings. They’ll appear with the veterans at formal hearings before what is known as the Physical Evaluation Board � the panel that actually gives out the ratings based on a medical evaluation by military doctors.

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