UCI Law Students, Gibson Dunn Obtain Pro Bono Appellate Victory on Behalf of Iraq War Veteran


Win marks second successful appeal from UCI Law VA Benefits Project

IRVINE, Calif., Sept. 22, 2016—UCI Law students assisted in the successful appeal of a Board of Veterans' Appeals decision that denied service-connected benefits to a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of his military service in Iraq in 2006.

An opening brief, which identified multiple errors in the Board’s decision, was put forth by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP attorney, Sean S. Twomey. Mr. Twomey was assisted by six UCI law students in researching and drafting the brief. The students were providing pro bono service as part of the UCI Law VA Benefits Project, with Mr. Twomey supervising the project.

The Marine, who served in Iraq in 2006 and is also a veteran of Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf, suffered head injuries as a result of enemy mortar fire, improvised explosive devices, and during combat training, yet was originally denied a claim for service-related injury.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims overturned the Board’s decision after the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of General Counsel conceded the argument put forth in Gibson Dunn’s briefing rather than filing an opposition brief.

Together, the parties filed a joint petition to vacate the Board’s decision, which the Court of Appeals granted, vacating the Board’s decision in full and remanding the claim for reconsideration.

“The Marine was unjustly denied benefits he deserved for injuries he sustained during his military service,” said Mr. Twomey. “I am proud that we persuaded the Court that a mistake had been made.”

Mr. Twomey credited the law students’ “enthusiasm, creative thinking, and hard work” as key in securing victory on the Marine’s behalf.

“It is a privilege and an honor to advocate through the VA Benefits Project for those who have served our country,” added Mr. Twomey, whose late grandfather was a Marine Corps pilot serving in World War II and the Korean War.

The successful appeal is the second garnered by the VA Benefits Project and Mr. Twomey. In July 2015, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims vacated and remanded a Board decision that denied service-connected benefits to a U.S. Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War and suffered exposure to Agent Orange. The Vietnam War veteran was the first client served by the UCI Law and Gibson Dunn collaboration.

The project has already accepted its third client for the upcoming academic year, a Marine who served in Vietnam.

Third-year student Andrew Morrill served as student leader on the most recent case. Students Karisa Chapa (3L), Katherine Ells (3L) and Julia Wu (2L) also contributed, along with alumni Bree Oswald (’16) and Hayley Penan (’16).

The VA Benefits Project, established in spring 2015 with support from Gibson Dunn and the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program, handles cases for pro se Veterans seeking relief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in Washington, D.C.

For inquiries about representation or other information, please contact Sean S. Twomey at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, 949-451-4055, or at stwomey@gibsondunn.com.

About UC Irvine School of Law

Ranked No. 4 overall in the National Jurist 2016 list of Best Schools for Practical Training, and No. 2, behind Yale, for the ratio of clinic positions, UCI Law is a visionary law school focused on training talented and passionate lawyers and driven by professional excellence, intellectual rigor, and a commitment to enrich our communities through public service. UCI Law is a collegial environment, and our faculty comprises accomplished, nationally ranked thought leaders from around the country with a broad range of expertise. In the 2015 study by University of St. Thomas School of Law, the UCI Law faculty ranked No. 6 in the nation in scholarly impact. More about the Law School is available at law.uci.edu.

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