Baylor Law Receives Grant to Provide Free Veterans Clinics
The Texas Access to Justice Foundation, also known as TAJF, has awarded Baylor Law School a $22,000 grant for the purpose of providing civil legal aid to Texas veterans. According to Dr. Bridget Fuselier, who is a professor at Baylor Law School, this grant funds monthly clinics for Waco-area veterans who need legal assistance but are unable to receive it due to their low income levels. For the third year in a row, thousands of local veterans will receive monthly pro bono help at Baylor’s innovative veterans assistance clinics. Dr. Fuselier, expressing her gratitude to the foundation, has stated:
We’re very appreciative and honored that the Texas Access to Justice Foundation continues to support our program, the fact that they’re renewing their commitment to us is proof that we’re being successful in our efforts with the money.
Dr. Fuselier has stated that in order to receive aid from the clinic, the veterans must be at the 200 percent or lower poverty level. According to the Texas Access to Justice Foundation website, the annual income of a veteran can be no more than $14,588 a year in order to be eligible for aid. Over 80 percent of the veterans who receive legal aid from the clinics come from McLennan County, Texas.
The aid that these veterans receive during the monthly clinics is provided by law school faculty, students, and volunteer local attorneys. At these monthly clinics, veterans can receive civil legal advice for problems such as family law matters, denial of benefits or disability, or any other issues that have arisen as a result of the veteran’s deployment. According to Baylor Law School’s website:
Each monthly clinic begins with a 30-minute educational topic ranging from landlord/tenant relationship issues to veterans’ benefits to the importance of having a will. Following the 30-minute session, veterans who have current legal problems can meet with a law student and volunteer attorney for a brief advice and counsel session.
According to Dr. Fuselier, “The veterans are able to at least get some immediate advice, and then sometimes we send their cases to volunteer attorneys in Waco that can do some more work pro bono.”
According to Betty Balli Torres, the executive director for the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, the work that Baylor Law School is doing with the grant is unlike anything that has been done with one of their grants before. According to Torres, it is the only veterans clinic through a law school which the foundation funds. She stated: “the fact that Baylor was starting a program to benefit veterans in this specific model was very appealing to us,” which is why it was chosen for the grant.
The foundation only has a small number of grants that they can give out, so the continued funding of these veteran’s clinics is something new for the foundation. According to Torres, the foundation has “had diminishing resources,” so difficult choices had to have been made about where to put the foundation’s money. She is confident in the decision to give Baylor the $22,000 for the third year in a row.
Not only is this grant beneficial to the veterans who receive the free legal advice, but it is also beneficial to the law school students who are giving it. These clinics allow them to gain valuable legal experience that will overall make them more prepared for their post-law school careers. According to Torres, this is why law schools make the perfect places to award these grants. She said:
Law school is where you start educating young professionals about the services they can provide, give them opportunities to serve and have them help out in programs like the one at Baylor, it’s a perfect place to provide funding.
Hopefully we will see Baylor continue to run veterans assistance clinics for years to come, thanks to the generosity of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation.
Brittany Alzfan (@BrittanyAlzfan) is a student at the George Washington University majoring in Criminal Justice. She was a member of Law Street’s founding Law School Rankings team during the summer of 2014. Contact Brittany at staff@LawStreetMedia.com.
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