Lawyers’ Pro Bono Work Wins WWII Vet Benefits

The pro bono work of DLA Piper attorney James Garrett cannot be understated. Mr. Garrett was recruited to help gain veteran benefits for Stanley Friedman, 92, who served in the U.S. Army during WWII and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Mr. Garrett was enlisted in the case from The John Marshall Law School’s Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic.

Mr. Friedman, who now lives in Lake Bluff, Ill., with his wife, had received no benefits since his service in WWII ended in 1945. Mr. Friedman was born in 1920, grew up in Brooklyn and enlisted in the Army right before the U.S. entry into the war. By 1941, he had gained experience as a toolmaker and became an instrument repairman in the service. On board a ship headed to the Strait of Gibraltar, he said his ship took fire from German combat ships.

During those 4+ years that he served in the army, Mr. Friedman experienced many of the horrors of war and its devastation. He was with a group of troops who searched for scrap metal from the remains of tanks from the Battle of Kasserine Pass in Tunisia.

Mr. Friedman said the Germans slaughtered American soldiers with every tank destroyed. Some of the bodies of fallen comrades were decomposed, he said.

After Mr. Friedman left the army, he later settled in Chicago in 1951. He suffered a heart attack in the 1960s and was treated for the first time at the VA in North Chicago. Mr. Friedman had never received any veteran benefits because it was said that he lacked records that he served in combat. But he and his wife, Minna Rae, found a law clinic at The John Marshall Law School that helps veterans.

Mr. Garrett took on the case in 2009 and recruited other DLA Piper attorneys to help draft briefs in support of Mr. Friedman’s war efforts. The lawyers learned over time that Mr. Friedman had spent time with the Army Air Corps, which is today’s U.S. Air Force. Much legal work and time was put in by Mr. Garrett and his colleagues. In a legal brief that exceeded 800 pages, DLA Piper requested benefits for Mr. Friedman from the VA.

First the Department of Veteran Affairs denied Mr. Friedman’s benefits, but in January 2011, the Board of Veteran’s Appeals in Washington, D.C., vacated a prior judgment that denied the benefits. Even though the appellate finding was in Mr. Friedman’s favor, his benefits didn’t arrive immediately. A DLA Piper lawyer visited the VA office on West Taylor Street to expedite the case.

At last, after all of this time and all of the effort by Mr. Garrett and his colleagues and staff at DLA Piper, Mr. Friedman now receives monthly benefits. The staff attorney at John Marshall’s Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic, Steve Novak, said Mr. Friedman’s case shows how “our system should work.”

With more and more veterans returning home, it is crucial that they receive the benefits they so deservedly earned in service to their country. The example of Stanley Friedman reveals how difficult it can be to receive those veteran benefits. Congratulations to DLA Piper and The John Marshal Law School Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic for their work in helping Mr. Friedman.

Kreisman Law Offices has served the legal needs of individuals and families for more than 36 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Calumet City, Bolingbrook, Romeoville, Orland Park, Vernon Hills, Mundelein, Chicago (Austin), Chicago (Bridgeport) and Flossmoor, Illinois.

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