The Veterans Legal Clinic was originally an initiative established by the Veterans Advocacy Legal Organization (“VALOR”) to create a network of pro bono attorneys who would be willing to assist veterans in legal matters related to their military status. Thanks to the efforts of Professor Steven Virgil and law students dedicated to serving veterans, the Veterans Legal Clinic was founded at Wake Forest University School of Law in Fall 2015. The Veterans Legal Clinic provides law students an opportunity to practice their legal advocacy skills under the supervision of a licensed attorney while helping North Carolina veterans.
Christopher Alderman ’16
It is a great service that veterans provide for our country. They volunteer to put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedoms and our way of life. As incredible the duty that veterans have fulfilled in defense of this nation is, so to should be the assistance they receive in returning to civilian life. Unfortunately, this is not often the case. From a large homeless veteran population to Department of Veterans Affairs scandals, the veteran class is a neglected one. As a veteran I want to do what I can to ensure that veterans, active duty, National Guard and reservists receive the assistance they need to move on from military life or continue the fight and accomplish the mission.
Meredith FitzGibbon ’16
The veteran population has several unmet legal needs. Many people, including veterans, are unaware of the legal rights and protections veterans are entitled to and deserve. Through my involvement with the Wake Forest Veterans Legal Clinic, I can help educate veterans at all stages of life of the their legal rights while also working with them to protect their rights. The opportunity to work with veterans, to hear their life stories, and to also develop my legal advocacy skills is an invaluable experience. It is an honor to serve the legal needs of the men and women who bravely serve our country.
Josh Harper ’16
Leaving the military is a very disorienting experience. After living in a world with so much structure, where your role and identity are clearly defined, the freedom offered by civilian life can seem overwhelming. When I left the Army after almost five years on active duty, I was blessed to have a supportive wife and family to help me with the transition. I was also very fortunate to leave the Army without any permanent physical reminders of my service. Finally, I started 1L about three months after leaving the military; whatever 1L’s drawbacks, it certainly kept me busy.
A lot of other veterans aren’t as fortunate. After a decade and a half of war, many veterans leave the service with permanent reminders, both physical and mental, of the sacrifices that they’ve made for our country. Almost a million veterans suffer from a “military service-connected disability rating of 70 percent or more.” In addition, the VA estimates that between 11-20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from PTSD, with Vietnam veterans suffering at an even higher rate.
As a result, veterans often struggle to deal with the transition to civilian life. Veterans are unemployed at a disproportionately high rate, and one source states that veterans are twice as likely as other Americans to suffer from chronic homelessness. These struggles often result in legal issues that veterans don’t have the financial resources to deal with.
That’s why I’m excited to be a part of Wake Forest University School of Law’s inaugural Veterans Legal Clinic. Professor Virgil, the clinic staff, and the students are committed to helping veterans with their legal issues. It’s a way that we can give back to people who have given so much for our country. I’m proud of my service in the Army, and because of efforts like the Veterans Legal Clinic, I’m also proud to say that I’m a law student at Wake Forest.
Annie Matonis ’15
I’d like to do my part to help service members and veterans with their legal issues so they can spend their free time enjoying friends, family, and life.