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University of Missouri law clinic gets $150K grant to help homeless veterans

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(The Center Square) – A $150,000 grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs will help University of Missouri law students assist homeless veterans with legal challenges.

The University of Missouri School of Law Veterans Clinic will be able to hire a program manager to assist in streamlining the process of finding homeless veterans and veterans at risk of homelessness and provide them with legal services, according to a media release from the organization.

The Veterans Outreach Program will help veterans experiencing homelessness get legal assistance from attorneys. In many instances, homeless veterans need legal help to get compensation from the Veterans Administration for health care to treat service-connected disabilities.

“Those are the two primary things we will do because they’re essential to lifting veterans out of being homeless,” Brent Filbert, director of the Veterans Clinic, said in a statement. “Homeless veterans are often experiencing mental health issues, and that’s what prevents them from getting VA access, which can relate to how they were discharged.”

Filbert said a veteran who was in combat in Afghanistan or Iraq may return home with a traumatic brain injury, physical trauma or mental health issues. Their discharge status might prevent them from getting disability compensation or health care.

“… and we work to get that rectified,” Filbert said.

However, it can take several years for discharge upgrades to be granted and for the VA to rule on claims appeals. The processes often require legal assistance for the veteran to be adequately served.

University of Missouri law students serve as counselors at the School of Law Veterans Clinic under the supervision of licensed attorneys with specialization in veterans law. In addition to helping veterans, the students gain skills and experience to help them in their legal career. The legal assistance students provide includes preparing disability compensation appeals, writing amicus briefs and other tasks to help clients.

“I think most students really appreciate the opportunity to have that hands-on experience,” Angela Drake, a law professor who founded the clinic in 2014, said in a statement. “The students come in and they get two or three clients and they’re told what they need to do for their clients. Then we meet with them weekly to make sure they don’t run down rabbit trails, but they do the actual research. The clinic simulates the practical experience of being in a real law firm.”

The number of veterans experiencing homelessness declined by 40,238 or 55% between 2009 and 2022, according to the 2022 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The number of homeless veterans declined by 4,123 or 11% between 2020 and 2002. The report estimated 476 veterans were homeless in Missouri in 2022, comprising between 6% and 10% of all homeless adults; 123 homeless veterans were reported in St. Louis.

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