This Veterans Day we sat down with Amy Kretkowski, a 2008 alumna and current adjunct professor at Iowa Law teaching Veterans Benefits Law, to learn more about the passion behind her work.
As the daughter of a World War II Veteran, she has dedicated her legal career to helping veterans and their survivors obtain the VA benefits they earned through their service to our country.
In her practice, Kretkowski has represented hundreds of veterans and their survivors in their appeals for VA disability and pension benefits at VA regional offices, the Board of Veterans' Appeals, and the CAVC.
Why did you choose to focus your work on veterans benefits?
After I graduated from law school, I was fortunate to serve as a judicial law clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in Washington, DC. The Article I Court has exclusive jurisdiction to review final decisions from the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, which is the top level of appellate review within the Department of Veterans Affairs. The clerkship introduced me to an area of law that I knew nothing about, but quickly fell in love with: veterans’ benefits law.
After my two-year clerkship, I decided to dedicate my legal career to advocating for veterans. Since that time, I have represented hundreds of veterans and their survivors in their appeals for much-needed VA benefits, primarily disability benefits. It can be exceptionally difficult for disabled veterans to navigate the VA appeal process. This work is incredibly rewarding because I know I’m making a meaningful difference in my clients’ lives.
What does this day mean to you?
I’m not a veteran, but my father was in World War II. I have his journal from that time, along with several letters he wrote home to his mother. He passed away while I was in law school – and I think of the work I’m doing as one way to honor him.
I think it’s important for everyone – especially those of us who never served – to acknowledge the enormous sacrifices made by veterans and their families. If we can’t do this every day, the very least we can do is set aside one day in the year – Veterans Day – for this recognition.
What advice would you have for a law student wanting to advocate for veterans?
Advice for law students who want to represent veterans: Take my class!
Advice for new lawyers who want to represent veterans: Participate in a training with The Veterans’ Consortium Pro Bono Program (full disclosure: I’m one of their mentoring attorneys) – and then volunteer to represent a veteran in an appeal to the CAVC. (The Consortium assigns mentors to new volunteers who help guide the volunteers through the process.) Take CLE with a veterans’ advocacy group like the National Organization of Veterans’ Advocate (full disclosure: I’m a Board member). Read cases from the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Jump in! There are plenty of veterans who need your help!