The Veterans' Advocacy Law Clinic at Arizona Law was recently named as an important factor in making the University of Arizona one of the best colleges for student-veterans (read more here).
In this edition, on the heels of Veterans' Day, we feature updates from the clinic, highlighting the accomplishments of its students and staff over the past year. 

The clinic is currently served by seven law students, representing approximately 160 veterans and active military members in courtroom and administrative legal proceedings. Over the course of the year, the clinic also and provided assistance to approximately 100 more individuals through intake and referrals.

This week we also hear from third-year student Josiah Rabon, a student-veteran who works in the clinic and participated in a recent big win for one of its clients.

Until the footnotes,
Veterans' Advocacy Law Clinic Update

The current staff of the Veterans' Advocacy Law Clinic (l-r): clinic fellow Lori Lewis, students John Enlow, Arizona Baskin, Timothy Desjarlais, Mario Rios, Elise Phalen, Athena Stephanopoulos, and Josiah Rabon, and director Kristine Huskey.

The Veterans' Advocacy Law Clinic at Arizona Law, led by Clinic Professor and Director Kristine Huskey, provides pro bono legal services to those who have served in the United States military. The clinic helps veterans by removing legal barriers that hinder the transition from military service to civilian life. 

It is the only law school clinic in Arizona whose clientele are exclusively veterans and service members and the only non-profit program in Arizona that focuses exclusively on the legal needs of veterans.
The clinic assists veterans in four areas: in veterans treatment courts, on benefits cases and discharge upgrade cases, and through a robust intake and referral program.
Helping veterans upgrade their discharge status to receive the benefits they deserve is an important part of the clinic's mission. A less than Honorable discharge can present barriers to employment, housing, security clearances, Veterans Administration (VA) home loans, and even access to VA disability and education benefits. Over the past year, the clinic achieved two big wins through its discharge upgrade practice.
In one case, the clinic represented a veteran who enlisted in the Army right after 9/11, serving for over 12 years. He eventually was a Ranger and in Special Forces, deploying to both Iraq and Afghanistan, receiving a Purple Heart and an Army Commendation Medal with Valor, among other awards. But the trauma of combat affected him, like so many other soldiers, and he suffered from post-traumatic stress (PTS). He began self-medicating with an illegal substance and, despite voluntarily entering rehab, the Army discharged him with a less than Honorable discharge.

From l-r: students Benjamin Taylor and Josiah Rabon, their client, 
and Professor Huskey.

In spite of this, the client went on to pursue a BS in nursing and work as a paramedic. The Vet Clinic began representing the veteran in the spring of 2017, ultimately filing two briefs with a Department of Defense (DoD) Review Board. In May 2019, two clinic students -- Josiah Rabon ('20, veteran) and Benjamin Taylor ('20) -- traveled with Professor Huskey and the client to Arlington, Virginia, where Josiah and Benjamin argued before the Board. This semester, the Board granted a favorable decision, upgrading the discharge to fully Honorable. Previous law students who worked on this case include Wes Stiner ('17) and Jon Rich ('18) (both veterans).
In another discharge upgrade case, the clinic represented an Air Force veteran who had deployed three times, serving in combat zones and witnessing child-sex slavery and other atrocities. He received numerous medals. After his third deployment, he too began self-medicating for his PTS and ultimately received a less than Honorable discharge. Despite his discharge, this veteran went on to get his Master's degree in national security studies and hopes to start his own business. 

During spring semester 2019, two clinic students -- Reuben Dacher-Shapiro ('19) and Travis Atwood ('19, veteran) -- filed a brief and extensive exhibits with the DoD Board on his behalf. Just recently, the clinic received a decision from the Board upgrading this veteran's discharge status to fully Honorable. Previous students who worked on the case include Erick Hernandez ('18) and Ishmael Boateng ('19) (both veterans).
Students who take the Veterans' Advocacy Law Clinic also represent veterans and active military service members in two local veterans treatment courts -- the Regional Municipalities Veterans Treatment Court and the Pima County Justice Court Veterans Court.
Students represent veterans from all branches, assisting them in successfully completing at least six months in the treatment program so their criminal charges are dismissed. Students participate in bi-weekly court sessions throughout the semester, interacting with local providers including the VA to ensure that clients are connected to appropriate counseling and treatment. These hard-working students interview clients, explain the program, follow up to encourage compliance with treatment, negotiate with prosecutors, argue before the judge and collaborate with everyone in the court.

Clinic students Elise Phalen (l) and Arizona Baskin (r) in court.

Since the beginning of 2019, 93 of the Veterans' Advocacy Law Clinic's clients have successfully graduated from these two veterans treatment courts. This semester, seven law students represent approximately 150 veterans and active military members in court. Current law students in the Vet Clinic are: Arizona Baskin ('21), Brie Braun  ('20), Timothy Desjarlais ('21), Elise Phalen ('20), Josiah Rabon ('20), Mario Rios ('21), and Athena Stephanopoulos ('21). In court, they work under the supervision of clinic fellow Lori Lewis.
The clinic's work has expanded over the years in response to growing need. This year it has continued its service providing intakes and referrals to at least 90 veterans, helping them find appropriate attorneys and non-profit organizations for matters such as family law, employment, benefits, and various civil matters.
Source: tucson.va.gov
On November 19, the clinic will cement its ongoing partnership with the VA and hold its first-ever legal clinic at the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System, with the goal of providing these legal clinics on a regular basis. 

Professor Huskey adds that the clinic could not have accomplished so much without the help of two UA undergraduate interns, Elyse Atler (psychology and criminal justice) and John Enlow (BA in Law).


Find out how you can make a contribution in support of the University of Arizona Veterans' Advocacy Law Clinic by contacting Megan O'Leary at moleary@email.arizona.edu or 520-626-1330, or donate here.

Clinic Student Josiah Rabon
Josiah Rabon is a third-year student currently working in the Veterans' Advocacy Law Clinic at the University of Arizona. He grew up in Tucson and enlisted in the Marine Corps after finishing high school, spending about five years in the Special Operations community working in the teams at 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion.
Josiah says that his ability to relate to the experiences and concerns of other veterans has made him a passionate advocate on their behalf.
"When I was down range in Afghanistan, many of my friends were injured and others were killed right in front of me. It's difficult to come back from experiencing those things. Because of that, my study of law and my work in the Veterans' Advocacy Law Clinic is personal."
He also says, although the first year of law school felt very uncomfortable at first, working in the clinic with and for other veterans brought a sense of normalcy and familiarity through being able to interact with people who have shared many of the same experiences.
Throughout his time in the clinic prior to this semester, Josiah worked on one discharge upgrade case (discussed above) for a veteran who served in the Ranger Battalions and Special Forces. Last spring, he and his clinic team filed their brief with the Army Discharge Review Board and, after completing finals, Josiah and fellow student Benjamin Taylor traveled to Arlington, Virginia, to present the case in front of the Department of Defense Review Board. The case was decided over the summer in favor of their client.
"This was a big win because our client had been living with a less than honorable discharge for many years and it had surrounded him with a negative stigma regarding his time in the service even though he had many honorable achievements and had risked his life for our country. Additionally, our client's discharge limited certain job opportunities and some of his VA benefits were even denied. This was the best outcome that we could have hoped for and we know that it will make a big difference in our client's life."
Josiah has also interned as an undergraduate with the Arizona House of Representatives and as a 2L interned at the Pentagon for the Navy's Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAGC). 

After graduation, he hopes to re-enter active duty military service as a Navy JAG and plans to continue advocating for fellow service members and veterans. He has observed how so many of the clients represented by the Veterans' Advocacy Law Clinic were separated from service with a less than honorable discharge. 

"Far too many veterans begin civilian life at a disadvantage because of the stigma associated with a less than honorable discharge. Had these veterans received competent and compassionate legal representation in their administrative separation process, far fewer people would later need the services of veterans' treatment courts. As a JAG, I plan to advocate for change in the Department of Defense separation policies relating to those who self-medicate to heal their wounds and for justice when the law is unjustly or negligently applied."

Around the College

Building the America We Want: A Community Conversation About Establishing Common American Values in Today's Hyper-Partisan Environment, Nov. 18

Arizona Town Hall and the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law invite you to a community town hall facilitated by students taking this fall's "Leading Across the Divide" course. John Kitigawa, former Rector of St. Philip's in the Hills Parish, will be a guest facilitator for this event.
When: Monday, November 18, 2019, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.
Where: Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie Lobby, College of Law
Close to half of Americans say that politics is ultimately a struggle between good and evil. In fact, just over 42 percent of the people in each party view those in the other party as "evil." Is there an alternative to endless partisan struggle, civil war or revolution?
We believe there is. It begins with respectful conversation leading to understanding and accommodation of different points of view. Please join us.
Check in begins at 5:00 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.

Questions? Contact Bernadette Wilkinson (520-626-1629).

2019 Homecoming in Pictures: Alumnus of the Year
2019 Law Alumnus of the Year Steven Russo with UA President Robbins.

We continue to gather and share photos from our alumni and friends who attended our 2019 Homecoming and Reunion events. This week we spotlight College of Law Alumnus of the Year Steven Russo ('75, '78), who received his award at a main campus ceremony on October 31. Congratulations, Steve!

With UA Alumni Association President Melinda Burke.

With Arizona Law Director of Development, Megan O'Leary.

Steve was cheered on by his grandchildren.

Dinner with Gutter Bowl Winners 

Last month, members of the Arizona Asian American Bar Association bowling team and I enjoyed dinner at the home of Cher Hirsch. The team was named lowest-scoring champion at the 2019 Steve Hirsch Gutter Bowl, and the dinner was their prize. It was a great night. Attendees included Amanda Chua, May Lu ('07), Shama Thathi ('15), Christopher Dang ('11), Nicole Ong Colyer ('08), Katya Lancero ('14), and Eileen Sullivan

In the News

To all of the veterans who have chosen to study law at the James E. Rogers College of Law, thank you for enriching our community.
To all veterans, we are honored to be able to help seek justice and to return the respect and dedication you have demonstrated for all of us through your service.
Thank you.





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