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OLAF sponsors Veterans Legal Corps Fellows program

Seven law school graduates are working as fellows on urgent issues facing veterans throughout Ohio as part of collaboration fellowship program between the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation, Equal Justice Works and AmeriCorps. The fellows, as part of the Veterans Legal Corps, work in legal aid organizations across the state and focus on solving civil legal problems for homeless and low-income veterans.

“We are privileged to support the Ohio Veterans Legal Corps,” Angela Lloyd, executive director for the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation, said. “The work done by the Veterans Legal Corps to ensure that Ohio veterans receive the benefits they earned through their service or to secure stable housing or employment is a tribute to the sacrifices each veteran has made for our country.”

“Some veterans are in need of significant legal assistance upon their return from service,” Jonathan Hollingsworth, Ohio State Bar Association president, said. “These recent law school graduates are not only gaining experience in the field through their fellowships, but also are improving the lives of our veterans in need.”

Robert Abdalla, a graduate of Vanderbilt University Law School, is working with Southeastern Ohio Legal Services, a non-profit legal aid organization providing free legal services to low-income people in southeast Ohio. Abdalla, a former U.S. Army sergeant, hopes to improve the lives of low-income and homeless veterans. “Veterans frequently face complicated problems stemming from physical and mental injuries sustained during military service and when legal problems go unresolved, they can multiply and create insurmountable barriers to successful civilian life,” Abdalla said. “The ultimate goal of the Veteran Legal Corps is to improve the lives of veterans—those we once relied on to serve our country—and to enable them to return to civilian life as successful community members.”

Holly Hillyer, a graduate of the University of Toledo College of Law, works at Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. in Toledo, a non-profit legal organization that provides free legal assistance in civil matters to help low-income individuals and groups. Her project allows her to assist eligible veterans with civil matters as well as veteran-specific matters. “The goal is to provide low-income and homeless veterans with legal services that ultimately lead to higher incomes, better health, safe and secure housing and family stability,” Hillyer said.

Michael McGuire, a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law in Chicago, IL, is working in the Marion office of the Legal Aid Society of Columbus, a non-profit organization that seeks to improve the lives of and empower low-income central Ohio residents by providing high-quality legal representation to meet clients’ civil legal needs. Though his Equal Justice Works project, he represents veterans, service members and their families in civil legal matters. “The open-ended nature of this project provides the flexibility to address the legal issues unique to veteran populations.”

Jami Altum-McNair, a graduate of Case Western Reserve University School of Law, works at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, a non-profit organization providing free legal services to low-income people in northeast Ohio. As a military veteran, Altum-McNair has always believed in the importance of public service and, now as an attorney, wants to provide underserved and vulnerable populations with high-quality legal service. “Given my background as a military service member, the chance to provide legal services to veterans is incredibly exciting,” Altum-McNair said. “Since I began my fellowship at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, many veterans have expressed excitement and gratitude that a fellow veteran is available to help them with their legal problems.”

Caitlin Milo, a graduate of the Florida Coastal School of Law, is working at the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, a non-profit organization driven to resolve legal problems of low-income people, promote economic and family stability and reduce poverty through effective legal assistance in seven counties in southwest Ohio. She helps veterans obtain benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “So far, I have helped veterans by obtaining clothing allowances, providing counseling regarding the VA claims process and VA resources, and by preparing and submitting claims for pension and compensation,” Milo said. “As part of this fellowship, I look forward to building bridges between civil legal resources and other government resources for veterans. For example, I am currently partnering with the VA Homeless Division Office in Cincinnati to provide a civil legal services clinic for homeless veterans.”

Kenneth Mirkin, a graduate of Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, FL, is working at Community Legal Aid Services in Akron, a non-profit provider of legal services for low-income and senior Ohioans in central northeast Ohio. His Veterans Legal Corps project aims to assist low-income and homeless veterans to obtain employment and secure permanent housing. “Our veterans have already proven their commitment to service; I see my role as helping them rediscover the important place they hold in society,” Mirkin said. “I want to help these veterans access all of the vital resources within their reach, and to make sure that all eligible veterans are taking full advantage of the services that can improve their lives and those of their families.”

Elizabeth Zak, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Law, is working at Pro Seniors, a non-profit organization in Cincinnati that provides free legal and long-term care help to older adults. Zak provides assistance to Ohio’s low-income, senior veterans on a variety of issues including consumer, healthcare, housing and public benefits law. “Serving Ohio’s senior population has been a growing passion of mine,” Zak said. “My goal is to speak with over 100 veteran clients within the next year and, at the very least, make sure each veteran knows what benefits and options are available to him or her.”

The Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation was established in 1994 to fund and to enhance civil legal aid for Ohioans. The Foundation funds lawyers who change lives for veterans, children, victims of domestic violence and people facing foreclosure. 

Equal Justice Works is a national leader in creating public interest opportunities for law students and lawyers. Collaborating with the nation’s leading law schools, law firms, corporate legal departments and nonprofit organizations, Equal Justice Works offers a continuum of opportunities that provide the training and skills that enable attorneys to provide effective representation to underserved communities and causes.
 
AmeriCorps engages more than 80,000 men and women in intensive service each year through more than 15,000 nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the country.

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