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Lawyers 4 Vets Free Clinic Launching

April 24, 2014

From the William Jennings Bryan Dorn VAMC

South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, in partnership with the William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center and with additional coordination and support by Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough Law Firm, is proud to announce the Lawyers 4 Vets (L4V), a pro bono legal clinic for lower-income Veterans in South Carolina.

There are more than 420,000 veterans living in South Carolina. Presently, nearly 30,000 veterans in South Carolina live below the poverty line, struggling to find jobs, and grappling with the devastating effects of poverty, hunger, and homelessness.

As a free legal clinic, Lawyers 4 Vets connects lower-income veterans living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines with local attorneys who will provide one-on-one pro bono legal advice or representation.

“Our team at SC Appleseed is dedicated to advocacy for low-income South Carolinians. We take a systemic approach to complex issues – such as hunger, healthcare, immigration policy, and poverty – and we work tirelessly wherever we believe we can do the most good. Today, with 30,000 South Carolina veterans living in poverty, we know there is a need we can serve. This clinic makes one more tool available to our veterans, eliminating one more barrier keeping them from the productive civilian life they deserve,” says Sue Berkowitz, Executive Director of SC Appleseed.

“We are extremely proud to partner with the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center and members of the community who are establishing the Lawyers 4 Vets free legal clinic,” said Dorn VA Medical Center Acting Director David Omura. “Veterans have faithfully served the State of South Carolina and our nation, and this is a remarkable service that will provide the legal counsel needed to help improve their quality of life.”

Beginning on May 15 and held on the third Thursday of each month (9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.) at the Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia, Lawyers 4 Vets will assist Veterans by appointment only with:

  • Obtaining identification (Social Security, South Carolina ID, birth certificates)
  • Child support and visitation issues in South Carolina
  • Expungements and pardons in South Carolina
  • Consumer protection
  • Simple wills and healthcare power of attorney

Steven Diaz, a Marine who was severely injured by an IED in Iraq in 2005, serves today as the Chief Operating Officer of Hidden Wounds, a nonprofit focused on, "Helping Heroes Battle the Invisible War at Home.” He knows firsthand the challenges that face our returning troops as they learn to deal with post-war life. “With our troops coming home, the integration back to society can be difficult. Having access to legal services is going to remove important barriers to many veterans living successful lives in their communities. Veterans can have peace of mind knowing Lawyers 4 Vets will be there for them when they need it.”

Columbia House Representative James E. Smith, a S.C. National Guard major who served a tour in Afghanistan and a local attorney, supports the project and is encouraged by the work he knows fellow lawyers can do. “As a state, we should do everything we can to take care of our Veterans and service members. We know that legal matters are intensely stressful—facing debt collection or child support issues or contemplating bankruptcy are huge stressors for anyone, especially Veterans who are still adjusting to post-war life. I believe legal help is really an essential part of a Veteran’s ability to achieve strong mental health and well-being outcomes, and I look forward to seeing the impact this important clinic will have.”

South Carolina Appleseed is actively recruiting attorneys interested in giving back to these brave men and women who have served in our military. Specifically, SC Appleseed is recruiting attorneys willing to undertake representation of a Veteran or serve as an expert on a subject matter for volunteers who may have questions on a particular area of law. Law firms can get involved by “sponsoring” a month at the clinic and providing a group of attorneys to volunteer.

Veterans seeking information about the clinic and the services it will provide should visit
http://www.columbiasc.va.gov/Lawyers4Vets.asp or call 1-877-289-6000.

Attorneys interested in volunteering or anyone interested in supporting the clinic should  contact Ashley R. Thomas, athomas@scjustice.org | (803) 779-1113 x 113.

Information about VA: contact Kevin Lee McIver, Dorn VAMC Public Affairs Officer, (803) 776-4000 x 6519 or kevin.mciver@va.gov.