South Texas College of Law Houston Students Give Back to Veterans
A team of civic-minded law students and faculty members from South Texas College of Law Houston recently volunteered their time and expertise to assist veterans at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston.
The students, working under the supervision of their professors, advised veterans in a variety of legal areas, including family law disputes, landlord/tenant matters, probate and guardianship issues, and estate planning. The South Texas College of Law Houston team also answered many veterans’ questions pertaining to Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and appeals.
Adam Matlock, a third-year, part-time law student at South Texas College of Law Houston, brought a special affinity and experience to his volunteer role with the formerly enlisted men and women. Currently on active duty in the Texas Air National Guard, he works full time as a shift supervisor in Air Force Security Forces at Ellington Field, and attends law school in the evening during the week.
“My unique background as a law student and a member of the military allows me to connect with veterans in a way that others might find more difficult,” said Matlock. “Because I ‘speak the language’ and understand the challenges many veterans face in navigating their benefits, it is especially rewarding for me to help explain their legal options from healthcare to homelessness.”
When possible, the law school volunteers provided legal advice on the spot at the VA Medical Center and – in cases requiring more complicated legal representation – the team referred veterans to the South Texas College of Law Houston Veterans Clinic, where students and staff attorneys assist clients with benefits claims, discharge updates and civil legal services for military personnel and their families. South Texas College of Law Houston representatives also work closely with staff and volunteers from Houston Volunteer Lawyers, Lone Star Legal Aid, and the Houston Lawyer Referral Service to ensure Houston-area veterans receive the legal assistance they need.
Crystal Jenkins, a South Texas College of Law Houston alumna and recently hired clinical teaching fellow in the law school’s Randall O. Sorrels Civil Practice Legal Clinics, supervised students during the South Texas College of Law Houston sponsored event. She is working to strengthen the school’s Guardianship Clinic and educate clients – from veterans to low-income immigrants – on legal options for themselves and their families.
“We have a tremendous opportunity to help improve the lives of veterans through our own Veterans Clinic and our partnership with Houston Volunteer Lawyers,” she said. “Many of these veterans simply don’t know how to navigate the complicated VA system, and therefore, fall behind in accessing the care and benefits they deserve. When our students volunteer their time and knowledge in a pro bono capacity, both they and their ‘clients’ succeed.”
Alec Lawton, a public interest attorney who teaches in the South Texas College of Law Houston Veterans Clinic, also participated in the law school’s volunteer day at the VA, and emphasized veterans’ great need for effective legal service.
“This summer, Linda Klein – the new president of the American Bar Association – announced her priority to expand legal access for veterans during her administration. Through our Veterans Clinic and outreach to veterans in the community, we are working to fulfill this mission by extending a helping hand to deserving service members throughout our region.”