Veterans Appeals Pro Bono Grant Program

The Veterans Appeals Pro Bono Grant facilitates the provision of high-quality legal and other assistance, without charge, to veterans and other individuals who are unable to afford the cost of legal representation in connection with decisions of, or other proceedings in, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

Overview

Funds for the Veterans Pro Bono Program are authorized by and subject to Public Law 102-229, title I, ch. II, 105 Stat. 1701, 1710, as incorporated by reference in subsequent appropriations for the United States Court of Appeals forVeterans Claims (Court). That law requires the Court to provide the funds to LSC to award grants or contracts for the provision of “legal or other assistance, without charge, to veterans and other persons who are unable to afford the cost of legal representation in connection with decisions” of, or other proceedings in, the Court.

Public Law 102-229 requires this assistance to be provided through “a program that furnishes case screening and referral, training and education for attorney and related personnel, and encouragement and facilitation of pro bono representation by members of the bar and law school clinical and other appropriate programs, such as veterans service organizations, and through defraying expenses incurred in providing representation to such persons. . . .”

LSC seeks proposals from: (1) Non-profit organizations that have as a purpose the provision of free legal assistance to low-income individuals or the provision of free services to veterans; or (2) private attorneys or law firms that seek to establish such a non-profit for these purposes.

Applicants must file a Notice of Intent to Compete (NIC) with LSC to participate in the competitive grants process. The NIC must include the following information:

(1) Organization name;

(2) organization type (e.g., non-profit or law firm);

(3) name and title of primary contact;

(4) primary contact mailing address, phone number, and email address;

(5) names and brief description of relevant experience of principals and key staff;

(6) names and brief description of relevant experience of current governing board; and

(7) if the non-profit organization has not yet been established, names and brief description of relevant experience of prospective members of a governing board.

“Relevant experience” includes experience with:

(a) Veterans benefits law;

(b) recruiting, training, supervising, and assigning cases to volunteer attorneys;

(c) practice before the Court or supervision of attorneys practicing before the Court;

(d) reviewing and evaluating veterans benefits cases;

(e) outreach and education for veterans and dependents regarding veterans benefits rights and procedures.

The NIC must not exceed seven (7) single-spaced pages and must be submitted as a single PDF document. The NIC must be submitted by email to veteransprobono@lsc.gov.

For more information about the current grantee, The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program, please visit www.vetsprobono.org.

LSC invites interested parties that have submitted Notices of Intent to Compete acceptable to LSC to submit proposals for use of Veterans Pro Bono Program funds for calendar year 2016.

Through this competitive process, LSC seeks to fund the organization or entity that will most effectively and efficiently further the purpose of the Program:

to facilitate the provision of high-quality legal and other assistance, without charge, to veterans and other individuals who are unable to afford the cost of legal representation in connection with decisions of, or other proceedings in, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

This purpose is to be achieved through a project that incorporates, at a minimum, the core activities prescribed in Public Law 102-229:

  • Case screening and referral;

  • Training and education for attorney and related personnel;

  • Encouragement and facilitation of pro bono representation by members of the bar

    and law school clinical and other appropriate programs, such as veterans service

    organizations; and

  • Defraying expenses incurred in providing representation to eligible appellants.

    LSC expects to fund an Applicant that successfully integrates these core activities into its proposal and responds to the Application Questions below and all other requirements included in this RFP. 

Veterans Pro Bono Program grant funds are authorized only for services in connection with decisions of, or other proceedings in, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. 

Eligibility

In addition to demonstrating the ability to carry out the provisions of this RFP, Applicants must meet the following threshold requirements to be considered for funding. Failure to meet the threshold requirements disqualifies an applicant.

Threshold Requirements

  • Organization Type: Applicants must be either: (1) Non-profit organizations that have as a purpose the provision of free legal assistance to low-income individuals or the provision of free services to veterans; or (2) private attorneys or law firms that seek to establish such a non-profit for these purposes.

  • Submission of Notice of Intent to Compete: Pursuant to the Notice of Availability of Calendar Year 2016 Competitive Grant Funds for the Veterans Pro Bono Program published by LSC in the Federal Register on July 27, 2015.3 Applicants must have submitted a Notice of Intent to Compete accepted by LSC in order to submit a proposal in response to this RFP and participate in the grant competition.

  • Geographic Scope of Services: An application must include a plan to serve eligible veterans, dependents, or other persons with proceedings before the Court, regardless of their location or residence. An application may not be restricted to service in a particular geographic area. To provide the required coverage, an Applicant may partner with other organizations. (These other organizations do not need to meet the “organization type” requirements set forth above.)

    Applicants must certify on the form provided in Appendix I that these threshold requirements have been satisfied.

Availability of Funds

The exact amount of available funds and the date, terms, and conditions of their availability for calendar year 2016 will be determined through the congressional appropriations process for FY 2016. As of the date of publication of this RFP, the amount available is not known because Congress has not provided a full appropriation for the Court for FY 2016. For the past three years, Congress has appropriated approximately $2,500,000 each year to the Court for this Program. Any grant extensions or renewals are subject to the funding amounts appropriated by Congress. 

Single vs. Multiple Grants

LSC intends to award one grant to a single Applicant through this competition. LSC may award more than one grant, however, if it determines that multiple grants are necessary to ensure that all eligible appellants will have access to services in accordance with Public Law 102-229 or other applicable law. 

Award Period

The Veterans Pro Bono Program award normally has a grant period of twelve months, from January 1 through December 31. Because of the timing of the 2016 competition cycle, the start date of the grant term may be delayed for 2016, in which case LSC may award funding for a different period, not to exceed twelve months. LSC may award the grant for a shorter period, which may be subject to discretionary renewal or extension. LSC may also decide on a funding term of up to three years. In that case, at the end of the grant period, the grantee may apply for renewal or extension of a grant within the funding term. Noncompliance with the grant terms or applicable laws and rules may result in termination of the grant award at any time during the grant period.

Funding Instrument

The funding mechanism for the Veterans Pro Bono Program is a grant. 

How to Apply

Application Deadline
The application deadline was December 11, 2015. Application materials must be submitted by email as PDF documents or Excel spreadsheets, pursuant to the instructions provided below. LSC will not accept applications or portions of applications in hard copy format. 

Reporting, Compliance Requirements & Applicable Law

All grants made pursuant to this solicitation are subject to the authorizing legislation in Public Law 102-229. Grantees must also comply with the requirements stated in the grant assurances and grant award documents, which will be provided to the successful Applicant upon notification of the final award decision. See Appendix VII for sample grant assurances for reference.

Reporting and Oversight Activities

Grantees will be subject to oversight by LSC, as specified in the grant assurances. LSC will require submission of periodic reports of program activity and financial status during the grant period. Further details on reporting requirements will be made available to the successful Applicant as part of the grant award package and during the term of the grant.

Application of LSC Statutes and Regulations to Veterans Pro Bono Grant Funds

The Veterans Pro Bono Program grant is funded through a congressional appropriation to the Court. LSC administers the grant with funds from the Court, and these funds are not part of LSC’s federal appropriation. Accordingly, this grant is not subject to most restrictions applicable to recipients of LSC’s basic field awards (general, migrant, or Native American). For example, the grant is not subject to restrictions on lobbying or class actions or the requirements for board composition. Nonetheless, many LSC requirements regarding the use of funds, oversight, and management apply.

LSC specifies which LSC requirements apply through the Veterans Pro Bono Program grant assurances and grant award documents. In the most recent grant cycle, LSC applied 45 C.F.R. Part 1629—Fidelity Bond Coverage, 45 C.F.R. Part 1630—Cost Standards, and a fund balance rule similar to 45 C.F.R. Part 1628. Other requirements, similar to those applicable in LSC grantee grant assurances, also apply such as use of the LSC Property Acquisition and Management Manual. Please see Appendix VII for sample grant assurances and Appendix VIII for illustrations of the application of LSC restrictions to grant funds.

Freedom of Information Act

LSC may receive requests for copies of applications submitted to it. Applicants are hereby notified that the applications they submit are subject to the Freedom of Information Act. For guidance on the availability of information submitted by any Applicant, see LSC’s Freedom of Information Act Regulation, 45 C.F.R. Part 1602. To assist LSC in making disclosure determinations, Applicants may identify sensitive information and label it “confidential.”

False Statement

A false statement on an application is grounds for denial or termination of funds and grounds for possible punishment by a fine or imprisonment as provided in 18 U.S.C. § 1001.

Conflicts of Interest

Grants awarded under this program are subject to requirements regarding conflicts of interest and whistleblower protection.

Applicants must disclose and identify how they will address any potential conflicts in which people directly associated with a proposed payment of these grant funds to a subgrantee or contractor also have a direct association with the Applicant. Applicants must also provide a copy of written conflicts of interest and whistleblower policies.

LSC may specify additional conflicts requirements may apply at the time the award is made. 

Submission Deadlines

The application deadline was December 11, 2015.

Thank you for your interest in the Veterans Pro Bono Program 2016 grant competition. The Request for Proposals and related application materials are attached to this email. Detailed instructions for preparing and submitting a complete application are provided in the RFP document. Applications are due by Friday, December 11, 2015 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time. Applications must be submitted by email to the email address specified in the RFP.

 The following documents are attached to the downloadable application:

  • Veterans Pro Bono Program FY2016 Request for Proposals
  • Veterans Pro Bono Program FY2016 Request for Proposals - Appendix I - Applicant Information & Certifications (a fillable PDF form)
  • Veterans Pro Bono Program FY2016 Request for Proposals - Appendix II: Fiscal Application (a fillable PDF form)
  • Veterans Pro Bono Program FY2016 Request for Proposals - Appendices III-VIII
  • Veterans Pro Bono Program FY2016 Request for Proposals - Project Budget Template

 LSC staff is available to answer any questions about the RFP and application process. Please email your questions to veteransprobono@lsc.gov.