A legal services non-profit that assists veterans has received a sizable grant to study outcomes for those getting help through the federal VA.
New Haven-based Connecticut Veterans Legal Center and its project partners in New York City received a two-year $700,000 grant from the Bristol-Meyers Squibb Foundation.
Margaret Middleton, CVLC's Executive Director, said the non-profit entered into a first-of-its-kind medical-legal partnership with the VA Connecticut health care system four and a half years ago.
Since then, staff attorneys have helped more than 900 veterans. Middleton said common legal barriers can prevent veterans from recovery in their civilian lives. "We help veterans who might be facing eviction," she said. "We can help them get security deposits back from their landlord after they move. We help people with child support orders or establish visitation, establish social security or VA benefits. We help them apply for pardons to erase criminal conviction records."
Middleton explained that staff attorneys are able to reach veterans through a collaboration with the VA hospital in West Haven. "The way it works," she said, "is clinicians get appropriate releases from veterans and help them connect with the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center. We are actually on site every single day at the Errera Community Care Center."
The grant will allow the Veterans Legal Center to evaluate best practices so the model can be shared with other organizations across the country. Meanwhile there are bills pending before Congress to authorize the Secretary of the federal VA to fund at least one university law school program that's designed to provide legal assistance to veterans. Senator Chris Murphy is one of the bill's co-sponsors.