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A Renewed Commitment to the Veterans Legal Clinic

By Jordan Poll
November 27, 2018

The Bob Woodruff Foundation announced an increase to its support of the Michigan Law Veterans Legal Clinic with its recent contribution of a $100,000 grant, which supplements a previous gift that helped to launch the clinic in 2015 and inspired support from many alumni and law firms.

“The grant is a renewal of the Foundation’s commitment to the Veterans Legal Clinic,” said Professor Matthew Andres, ’02, director of the clinic. “It will help us expand the services we provide to veterans in Southeast Michigan while also enriching the educational opportunities for students, giving them the chance to do more complex and interesting work during their time with the clinic.”

Under the supervision of Andres and Clinical Fellow Eric Sirota, 2L and 3L student-attorneys directly handle all types of general civil litigation matters for veterans, including family law, housing, consumer disputes, financial abuse, and benefits overpayments, as well as veteran-specific matters such as discharge upgrades. “We are the only legal services organization in the state that focuses exclusively on veterans and their general civil legal needs, which the VA [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs] has identified as one of the 10 biggest unmet needs for veterans nationally,” explained Andres. “Many veterans do not qualify for legal aid services. They receive just enough money from benefits to disqualify them from legal aid but not enough to be able to afford representation. We are trying to fulfill that need so that the veterans can hire an attorney while still being able to afford to live.”

The Veterans Legal Clinic fills a void in legal services for the 600,000 military veterans that live in Michigan. “This is a great opportunity for students to experience aiding an underserved population. We are in the midst of a nearly two-decades-long war now, and it has touched the lives of many people in this country,” said Andres. “We have a lot of work to do.” Since its founding three years ago, the clinic’s reach has expanded from two to nine counties in Southeast Michigan and has provided free legal representation for 115 clients, but Andres has plans for helping many more as the clinic continues to grow.

The Foundation’s additional funding allows the clinic to train future advocates for underserved veterans, and to spearhead policy changes to further protect veterans. “The Woodruff Foundation’s continued support means the clinic will have more opportunities to get out there and talk to practitioners, lawmakers, and people doing important work in the field—letting them know about the legal needs of veterans,” said Andres. “And it means gaining access to resources that allow us to contribute to conversations shaping this area of law, becoming a thought leader not only in Michigan but across the country.”

The Bob Woodruff Foundation was founded in 2006 after reporter Bob Woodruff, ’87, was hit by a roadside bomb while covering the war in Iraq. Since then, the Bob Woodruff Foundation “has led a call to action for people to stand up for heroes and meet the emerging and long-term needs of today’s veterans.”

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