The Veterans Legal Clinic opened its doors in August 2017, as part of the Master Plan to redevelop the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) West Los Angeles Campus (“WLA Campus”). The Master Plan calls for 1,200 units of housing for homeless and other vulnerable veterans on the WLA Campus, only 2.5 miles from UCLA. The WLA Campus has origins dating back to the late 1880’s when the property was given to the federal government with a restrictive covenant requiring exclusive use of the land for wounded soldiers. It became a vibrant sanctuary for veterans with physical and mental disabilities following World Wars I and II and the Korean conflict. Then gentrification in the Brentwood area beginning in the 1950’s, coupled with the changing needs of wounded soldiers and stigma surrounding Vietnam-era veterans, led the VA to cease long term housing of veterans on the WLA Campus. The agency began entering into lease agreements in contravention of the restrictive covenant, including one with UCLA for the grounds of our Jackie Robinson baseball stadium. Following litigation brought by leading public interest organizations and partner law firms, UCLA agreed to initiate several programs, including the Veterans Legal Clinic, in order to maintain use of the stadium. A vital component of the Master Plan, the law school’s initiative provides critical legal services and referrals as part of the broader solution to the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles.
The clinic course presents an exciting and unique opportunity to engage in the practice of law before graduating. Currently, students enrolled in the clinic course represent a diverse group of former service members in cases to obtain legally entitled benefits (e.g. disability, pension, education) and criminal law matters; operates a weekly intake hotline; and participates in community advocacy. On a case by case basis, students enrolled in the clinic course also assist veterans on landlord-tenant, immigration and employment law matters.
Examples of Cases:
• Students wrote and submitted briefs to court arguing a veteran’s traffic citations should be dismissed. After the students’ successful oral advocacy at each of the arraignments, the court ruled in favor of our client, waiving approximately $2,000 in fines and fees and restoring her driving privileges.
• Students are assisting a former prisoner, who currently is homeless, avoid garnishment of service-connected disability benefits due to thousands of dollars in alleged overpayments while in state prison.
• Students prepared and filed briefs with the VA in support of a Korean War veteran’s claim for disability benefits related to his hearing loss, depression and Parkinson’s Disease, all of which developed because of his maintenance of aircraft and exposure to toxic substances in the line of duty.
For more information about the Veterans Legal Clinic, please visit: http://law.ucla.edu/veterans-clinic
General Information on Structure and Case Work:
• You will be “in the driver’s seat” of your cases with careful guidance from seasoned practitioners. This means you will write the briefs and perform oral advocacy in court or before administrative agencies.
• You will also participate in intake and experience condensed fast-paced forms of legal assistance under the guidance of clinic supervisors.
• The seminar focuses on skills and the particular vulnerabilities of the veteran community (e.g. race, disability, trauma). Students will gain lawyering skills transferable to any area of legal practice, including interviewing, counseling, fact investigation, cross-cultural lawyering and case theory. Students will be equipped with the transferable skill of learning a new area of law. A complete set of learning objectives is available upon request.
• Students should be willing to work with survivors of trauma and persons with chronic mental and physical challenges.
• Students are grouped in teams of at least two for case work. Each team will be assigned a primary faculty supervisor with whom you will meet weekly for at least an hour outside of seminar. Your instructors will assist you to learn from your experiences through reflection and self-assessment.
• Students should expect to spend 15-18 hours on their field work (cases and/or projects) in addition to seminar reading and periodic assignments. Students accepted into the clinic course are not allowed to take another client-based clinic or part-time externship during the semester.
• Students will be required to meet clients, engage in case work, and attend regular meetings on the WLA Campus, approximately 3 miles from the law school.
• A mandatory orientation will be held Friday January 25, 2019 (the first week of classes). This will be in addition to our regularly scheduled class. We understand no other classes are scheduled during this time so there should be no class conflicts. Accordingly, all students are required to attend to enroll in the course. No exceptions will be permitted.