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Serving Those Whose Served - Advocating for Veterans (2022 Military & Veterans Law Section Program)

8:55        Welcome and Introductions

9:00        Moving Beyond Agency Review

Tod Michael Leaven, Grimes Teich Anderson LLP, Asheville

You have appealed all the way to the Board of Veterans Appeals but have been denied. One potential next step is the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. This is the first opportunity for an independent federal court review of the agency decision and to correct errors made by the Board of Veterans Appeals. Learn the details of this process and how to argue effectively at this appeal level.

10:01      Compensation and Pension Exams

Matthew Ian Wilcut, Sutton Snipes, Greensboro

Compensation and Pension Exams are the crux of many claims for VA benefits. Knowing when a veteran is entitled to one and spotting errors and issues in examinations provided to veterans are essential parts of advocacy in this practice area.

11:02      Break

11:12      Proposals to Reduce

Andrea Helene Smaxwell, The Deuterman Law Group, Greensboro

The VA giveth and the VA taketh away. Find out what leads the VA to propose a reduction and what protections, rights and options a veteran has when the VA has proposed to reduce their rating on a service-connected disability.

12:13      Lunch Break

12:43      Death and Indemnity Compensation and Substitution

Christopher John Stevens, The Deuterman Law Group, Winston-Salem

When a veteran passes away, a surviving spouse, dependent child or dependent parent may be entitled to Death and Indemnity Compensation (DIC). Likewise, if a veteran passes away and still has a pending appeal, a surviving spouse, dependent child or dependent parent may step in as a substitute and continue a claim on behalf of the veteran. In this session, attendees find out the process and rules surrounding these claims.

1:43        Current Issues in Discharge Upgrades

John Wesley Brooker, UNC School of Law, Chapel Hill

Other-than-honorable discharges can be a bar to future VA benefits for veterans. Learn about the current legal landscape and challenges in the field of discharge upgrades to help advocate for veterans seeking to upgrade their discharge classification.

2:44        Break

2:54        Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

Michael S. Archer, Marine Corps Installations East, Jacksonville

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is a federal law that provides a wide range of legal and financial protections to active-duty service members and their families. Review these protections and discuss common issues to which this law applies.

3:54        Adjourn

Thank you

Thank you for joining us for Serving Those Whose Served - Advocating for Veterans (2022 Military & Veterans Law Section Program).


The VA is the second-largest federal agency, and it offers a myriad of programs and benefits to the millions of military veterans who served the United States. Traversing the regulatory landscape of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the benefits it offers is often a challenging task for any veteran, especially if going it alone.


  • Michael S. Archer

    Michael S. Archeris the Legal Assistance Director for the Marine Corps' southeast region in Jacksonville. After graduation from the University of Maryland (undergraduate) and George Washington University (law), Michael served as a Marine Corps judge advocate, retiring from active duty in 2003. Current collateral duties include legal advisor to the Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board.

    Michael has written numerous articles concerning military consumer law and has appeared before committees of the NC General Assembly and the U.S. Congress. He is the author of "Ripped Off! A service member guide to common scams, frauds, and bad deals," published in 2014 by the American Bar Association. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award of both the American Bar Association (2012) and the North Carolina State Bar (2006).

    Click here for more information about Michael.

  • John Wesley Brooker

    John Wesley Brooker is the Clinical Associate Professor of Law, and Director of the Military and Veterans Law Clinic at UNC School of Law in Chapel Hill. He joined the faculty in 2018 following over 20 years of active duty service in the U.S. Army. He directs the Military and Veterans Law Clinic and teaches a variety of courses in the national security law field. His teaching and research interests include military criminal law, veterans law, national security law, and public international law.

    John served for two years as the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate for U.S. Army Africa/Southern European Task Force in Vicenza, Italy.

    John received his B.A. in Politics and History from Wake Forest University, his J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law, his LL.M. from The Judge Advocate General's School, U.S. Army and his M.M.A.S. from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.

    Click here for more information about John.

  • Tod Michael Leaven

    Tod Michael Leaven is a partner at Grimes Teich Anderson LLP in Asheville. His areas of practice include Veterans' disability compensation, benefits for dependents, military discharge upgrades, VA healthcare benefits, extended care programs, education and rehabilitation, USERRA and FMLA protections for service members, assistance with Veteran-owned businesses, and wills and estates.

    Tod was born into a family of service, both his grandfather and father served abroad in the United States Army. He served in the United States Army from 1998 to 2004, including the initial Kosovo Occupation with the 501st Military Intelligence Battalion, 1st Armored Division, and the Iraq War with the 3rd Squadron of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division.

    Tod is currently an Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina School of Law, teaching Veterans Benefits and assisting in its Military and Veterans Law Clinic. He has authored and co-authored numerous publications ranging from Veterans and military affairs to intellectual property. He founded and still runs the annual GTA Homeless Veteran Legal Clinic, which provides free legal services to homeless Veterans in Western North Carolina. He has been an active member and line officer with the Disabled American Veterans, Department of North Carolina. He is a member of local, state-wide, and national Veterans' advocacy groups; is an active member of the Buncombe County Bar Association's Pro Bono Committee; and is a member of the local board of the Selective Service System. He currently serves as a board member on the Asheville City Noise Ordinance Appeals Board.

    Tod earned his B.S., summa cum laude, from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and his J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law.

    Click here for more information about Tod.

  • Andrea Helene Smaxwell

    Andrea Helene Smaxwell is an associate with The Deuterman Law Group in Greensboro. Before joining the firm's Veterans Disability practice as an associate attorney, Andrea worked as a law clerk in the firm's workers' compensation department.

    Andrea is accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs to represent veterans and their families on appeals of their VA disability claims. As a member of N.C. Bar Association Military and Veterans Law Section, she continues to hold leadership positions. She was elected membership chair for 2021-2022 and was elected treasurer for 2022-2023. She volunteers with the North Carolina Bar Foundation's Lawyers for Literacy.

    Andrea earned her B.A., magna cum laude, in philosophy and religion and a minor in political science from UNC Wilmington and her J.D., with a distinguished specialization in international law, from Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco. She continued her studies at the school's Sompong Sucharitkul Center for Advanced International Legal Studies where she earned her LL.M. in International Legal Studies. While earning her second law degree, Andrea focused on humanitarian law, learning specifically about the rights of soldiers, civilians and other noncombatants during war and times of conflict.

    Click here for more information about Andrea.

  • Christopher "Chris" Stevens

    Christopher "Chris" Stevens is Senior Attorney at The Deuterman Law Group in Winston-Salem. Representing veterans on VA claim appeals is his sole area of practice at the firm. He is accredited by the VA to represent veterans and their families on appeals of their VA disability claims. He is also admitted to practice at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

    Chris is the Immediate Past Chair of the Military and Veterans Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association. He is also a member of the National Organization of Veterans Advocates, a group whose membership includes attorneys and other advocates for disabled veterans.

    Chris is the current Chair of the Military and Veterans Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association, which coordinates state bar activities and initiatives impacting military and veterans. He is also a member of the National Organization of Veterans Advocates, a group whose membership includes attorneys and other advocates for disabled veterans.

    As an attorney, Chris has done pro bono work as part of Elon Law's Vet Your Records clinic for former military service members veterans, raised money for the Samaritan Ministries Penny Campaign and participated in firm-wide volunteer efforts.

    Chris graduated from Appalachian State University with a B.S. in business administration, double majoring in economics and marketing and earned his J.D. from the UNC School of Law. While in law school, he won the Eugene Gressman & Daniel H. Pollitt Appellate Advocacy Award for Best Appellant Argument.

    In his free time, Chris enjoys following state and national politics, playing guitar, watching football and competing in trivia competitions.

    Click here for more information about Chris.

  • Matthew Ian "Matt" Wilcut

    Matthew Ian "Matt" Wilcut is a partner at Sutton Snipes in Greensboro. He formed Sutton Snipes, a boutique firm focusing exclusively on veteran disability appeals, in January 2021. He leads the agency practice group within the firm, representing veterans and their family members before the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as an accredited attorney.

    With the start of the Fall 2022 semester, Matt is an Adjunct Professor of Law and the Supervising Attorney of the Veterans Advocacy Clinic at the Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University of Montana.

    Matt has been head of the VA agency practice group since he entered private practice in 2017. He started his legal career as an AmeriCorps volunteer with Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) through NC VetsCorps. At the end of his AmeriCorps term, he joined LANC's Durham office as a Staff Attorney, working primarily within their VA Disability Practice Group. During his time employed by LANC, he was also the Supervising Attorney for the Duke University School of Law's Veteran's Assistance Project.

    Matt is former President, Secretary, and member of the Board of Directors of the National Law School Veterans Clinics Consortium, the first and only Veteran Service Organization (VSO) recently approved by Congress and the VA to focus on legal advocacy. He is also former Chair, Vice-Chair, and Secretary of the Military & Veterans Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association.

    Matt earned his B.S. in Criminal Justice from Appalachian State University and his J.D. from Elon University School of Law.

    Click here for more information about Matt.

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January 12, 2023
Thu 8:55 AM EST

Duration 6H 59M

This live web event has ended.

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