The Veterans Legal Clinic (VLC) has celebrated a few victories this past year, with many of their cases focused on helping veterans that have been exposed to trauma.
In one case, the VLC won a discharge upgrade on behalf of a Vietnam veteran. He went absent without leave (AWOL) during his second deployment to Vietnam and was given a less than honorable discharge. He struggled with alcohol dependence during his transition from military to civilian life, but it took decades before he sought the assistance of a psychiatrist. The client was subsequently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder due to combat. His diagnosis explained his behavior during his second deployment, but an upgrade in his discharge status was not automatic. Student clinicians Katharine Kimmel '22 and Kate Plonsker '22 pored over thousands of medical and military personnel records and interviewed the client numerous times to ensure the facts were consistent with his recollection and the written record. Their brief argued that the client was entitled to an honorable discharge, given that the behavior resulting in his discharge was related to his military combat exposure. Ultimately, the government agreed with the student clinicans and upgraded his discharge status to honorable.
Katharine Kimmel spoke warmly of her time as a student clinician in the VLC: “One of my proudest and fondest memories from law school was receiving news that one of my clients had obtained the justice they deserved. Working a case from start to finish and having the opportunity to call the client to let them know we were successful was an incredible feeling that I will never forget. Additionally, finding out that a long-term client of the clinic had been upgraded to an honorable discharge after so many years based on the petition that I and my clinic partner wrote was truly amazing. Moments like these affirmed my desire and decision to pursue a career in law.”
Another case involved a client who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and was indicated by the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) for neglect. The basis of the neglect allegation centered around whether the client was complying with his medication regimen. Student clinician Jaleel Vazquez '23 conducted a fact investigation and was first chair during the DCFS hearing. Since the client has a TBI it was difficult for him to communicate his treatment program and medication regimen with DCFS officials. The evidence and testimony presented at the DCFS hearing helped set the record straight and the VLC won the case on behalf of the client. Clinic director Yulanda Curtis attributed the success in this case to Vazquez, who she said worked tirelessly with the client to help prepare him for the hearing.
Congratulations to the VLC on these recent victories!