In 2009, NOVA partnered with the Public Counsel Law Center’s Center for Veterans Advancement (CVA) to create the CVA/NOVA Pro Bono Advocates Program. The goal of the program is to fight homelessness among veterans by providing competent, pro bono representation before the VA. This joint program was initiated in response to military veterans’ increased demand for legal services, as well as President Obama and Secretary Eric K. Shinseki’s determination to end Veteran homelessness by 2015. It is now one of the largest and most successful pro bono programs in the United States.
Since its inception, the CVA/NOVA Pro Bono Program has enlisted the advocacy skills of NOVA members located throughout the country. The Program includes representation at both the VA-agency level and at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims Court, and has more than 40 participant law firms from across the U.S. It provides much-needed pro bono claims representation to poverty-stricken and homeless veterans, increasing the likelihood of them receiving their benefits, sooner than expected.
From August 2009 to December 31, 2011, Program partners have provided more than 600 hours of pro bono legal assistance to indigent veterans. This workload equates to a value of nearly $100,000 in labor value and $446,000 in income for veterans.
In May 2012, the Program launched an initiative to encourage NOVA members to provide legal assistance to the indigent and/or homeless in any legal matter, advancing its platform from focusing primarily on claims before VA.
“Clearly, the collaboration between NOVA and Public Counsel through its pro bono advocates program has enabled us to help stem the tide of homelessness among our veteran population, strike out at the ravages of poverty, and provide our national heroes with the life they deserve—free from poverty and despair,” CVA Director and Program Manager Rick Little said.
In October 2012, Bronx, NY attorney Tara R. Goffney received the first annual CVA-NOVA Pro Bono Advocate of the Year Award. In April 2013, Wade Bosley, a partner in the Florida veterans' disability group of Bosley & Bratch, accepted the award for eagerly participating in the pro bono program and encouraging members of his firm to do the same. In April 2014, the Honorable Clarke Barnes, an attorney and counselor at law for 46 years,in Rock Island County, Illinois was presented with the 2013 CVA-NOVA Pro Bono Advocate of the Year Award. In April 2015, Rebecca Wanee an attorney in Armory, MI was presented with the award, as she provided tens of thousands of dollars in benefits to homeless veterans. In March of 2016 Houston, TX attorney Robert Goss, was named the CVA-NOVA Pro Bono Advocate of the Year.