On October 25, 2023, the City Bar Justice Center commemorated the tremendous support of eleven volunteers, who were awarded with a 2023 Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award, for their remarkable commitment to our clients and for championing our team’s mission to advance access to justice. Congratulations!

Veterans Assistance Project: Boaz I. Cohen, Associate at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP

The Veterans Assistance Project (VAP) provides New York City veterans experiencing poverty and facing systemic barriers with legal assistance related to claims for benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  

Boaz Cohen, associate at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, started volunteering with VAP in July 2020 and has provided assistance to over 6 VAP clients in the past 3 years. Considering how long many VA cases take to conclude, this is no easy feat. One notable client representation involved a marine who emerged from the service with physical and mental conditions for which she was not compensated - chronic and unmanageable pain from injuries to her knee, back, shoulder, and hip, and a diagnosis of PTSD and depression after experiencing military sexual trauma and discrimination which left her suicidal and struggling to cope. Enrolled in graduate school and unable to fully work due to her conditions, the veteran experienced housing instability and was financially dependent on family members. Though she had been trying to appeal her VA compensation for 14 years, the veteran was only receiving a 40% combined disability rating, amounting to approximately $600 a month. With tireless commitment, Boaz and his team advocated for this veteran throughout the pandemic. They submitted new claims, supplemental claims, claims for an increase and, later, a higher-level review.  

During regular check-ins with VAP, Boaz demonstrated impressive ownership over the case and did excellent work without requiring much of VAP’s assistance. His hard work eventually paid off for the veteran. Her service-connected compensation was increased from 40% to 90%, and then to 100%. The veteran, who previously could not afford rent, is now receiving over $3,600 a month – a level of compensation that hugely impacts her future and provides for her financial stability.  

Boaz has developed expertise and confidence in veterans’ law and has served as the representative on file for many cases. One case for which he was a representative involved a veteran who had experienced racial discrimination and abuse. The veteran had been assaulted three times while in the marines. In one instance, he was struck from behind by a superior officer and hit his head on the pavement, causing a traumatic brain injury that has resulted in long lasting migraines, pain, and PTSD. Despite this and other serious conditions, the veteran only received around $100 a month in compensation and did not have access to VA health care benefits. However, after the committed work of the attorneys, the veteran’s compensation was raised to over $2000 a month. 

Boaz has not only served as a steadfast advocate for his own clients, but he is also a valuable internal resource within Kramer Levin and assists other attorneys with their veterans’ cases – and ultimately the greater veteran community.     

We are honored to present a 2023 Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award to Boaz for his exceptional work as a volunteer and advocate, and for his unwavering commitment to serving the veterans who once served us.