Hometown: Newton, N.J.
Cause: Veterans’ Benefits
Over the past seven years, Newark-based attorney Michael Pasquale has donated 500 to 600 hours annually to doing pro bono work on behalf of recently discharged and soon-to-be discharged American soldiers who are physically or psychologically injured. Many are like his first client, a man in his mid-forties who suffered traumatic brain injury while serving in Iraq and wasn't physically able to resume his civilian job; the government, however, found him only 10% disabled and awarded him a low one-time payment. Forced into premature retirement, a number of veterans are undercompensated by the Department of Defense and consequently can’t meet their family’s financial needs. Pasquale shepherds clients through the appeals process to get their benefits raised to a fair level, often earning them higher base pay for life as well as a pension and family health care. With demand high for his services, Pasquale is training attorneys at other law firms and corporations on how to handle such cases.