A UGA Law student who works at BBGA as a law clerk has successfully helped a military veteran obtain benefits from the Veterans Administration.
Tyler Mathis, along with fellow law student Taylor Pernini, wrote most of the appellate brief to the Board of Veterans Appeals and put together the expert materials in a case for a veteran who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder caused by several incidents of sexual assault during his time in service.
The Veterans Legal Clinic, where Tyler worked for free for four semesters, serves Georgia veterans and helps them get the benefits they’ve earned through their military service. The clinic made a recent announcement about the victory. You can read it here.
The condition had severely affected the veteran’s life since discharge in 1991. The VA denied his claim six years ago, and he had awaited a decision on his appeal since then. Tyler was a part of several teams of law students, working with clinic director Alex Scherr over five semesters, who prepared the evidence and argument that persuaded the Board of Veterans Appeals to grant his claim.
The victory gave the veteran a retroactive award of at least $105,000 and new, ongoing monthly compensation of over $1,500 per month, according to the clinic’s announcement.
“I worked on his case from August 2019 until we presented his argument to the Board in November 2019,” Mathis said. “I worked with his parents to help his argument by getting an affidavit from them that showed how he changed while in the Navy, and how his life changed afterwards due to the sexual trauma. I also helped prepare him to give his testimony to the Board.”
There was no documentation of the attacks because the military veteran did not report them at the time.
“He understandably didn’t report the attacks because … the attacker was his superior,” Mathis explained. “We proved that the attacks did happen by presenting expert psychological testimony that he had severe PTSD, and by pointing to markers, or changes in his life, that reflected the trauma occurred.”
Based solely on testimony and the argument about the markers of assault, the Board ruled that the assaults occurred.
“Based on the psychological opinion that we developed, the Board also ruled that he currently suffered from PTSD,” Mathis said. “The Board accepted our argument that the 2014 C&P (compensation and pension) exam that found otherwise should be ignored. Finally, the Board ruled that he had continuously suffered from PTSD since at least the date of his application in 2013.”
So far, Tyler has had three wins at the Board of Veterans Appeals. He was able to argue one of the cases to the board. He also helped to establish the UGA School of Law’s First-Generation Student Association and was the recipient of the Stacey Godfrey Evans Scholarship, which is awarded to first-generation college graduates. The student group focuses on social issues that are relevant to first-generation graduates and is an addition to the First-Start Scholars Program. Tyler is in his final year at UGA Law and will join the BBGA team as an associate following his graduation.