The Final Installment of LAF’s 2016 Brownbag Roundtable Series Spotlights the Veterans’ Rights Project
Last year, LAF provided free legal services to more than 1,200 veterans, service members, and their families. In addition to taking legal cases in a variety of areas, the Veterans’ Rights Project also remains involved in a medical-legal partnership through Rush University Medical Center’s Road Home Program, and runs a free legal clinic for veterans at the Community Resource and Referral Center. Veterans with attorney representation receive 2.4 times more compensation than those without representation, thanks in large part to attorneys’ ability to help their clients navigate an increasingly convoluted legal process. But with 1.5 million veterans living in poverty, access to legal representation is a significant barrier in itself. The latest edition of LAF’s 2016 Brownbag Roundtable Series featured some of LAF’s dedicated attorneys from the Veterans’ Rights Project: Equal Justice Works/AmeriCorps Veterans Legal Corps Fellow Ellen Rheaume, VISTA Attorney Catherine Shur, Supervisory Attorney Kathryn Socha and Equal Justice Works Fellow/Attorney Erin . They shared their experiences working with veterans and their families to ensure they receive advocacy, legal representation, and educational services regarding the rights and benefits they are due for their service to our country.
The most common issues LAF’s veteran clients face relate to military service-connected compensation, including monetary, healthcare, and education benefits. One of the stories they shared during the presentation was of a client who served during the Vietnam War. During his service, he developed schizophrenia and PTSD, the latter arising in part due to racism and harassment he experienced during service. Because his conditions weren’t diagnosed for a number of years after completion of his service, he faced incredible challenges obtaining VA compensation. LAF stepped in to confront the VA, demanding compensation and treatment for his PTSD and schizophrenia. The case is ongoing, but because of LAF’s intervention, the VA has already acknowledged the direct impact his time in the service had on his schizophrenia and provide treatment for it.
Thank you to all who joined us this Veterans Day to honor our veterans for their invaluable service, and thank the dedicated attorneys of the Veterans’ Rights Project for their commitment to serving those who serve.