Connecticut Veterans Legal Center receives $6500 NobleCause grant to foster volunteerism.
By: Hedy Gutfreund
Wars don’t end on the battlefield. This concept drives the mission of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC). The nonprofit helps veterans recovering from homelessness and mental illness overcome legal barriers to housing, healthcare, and income. CVLC was the first legal services organization in the country to be co-located and staffed on a daily basis within a VA community mental health facility. The center receives referrals from clinicians working in an integrated healthcare setting. It is the only organization of its kind in the state, providing legal assistance to over 500 veterans a year.
And, just as wars don’t end on the battlefield, legal assistance doesn’t end in CVLC’s office. Our team of volunteer attorneys is invaluable to the work we do. Since 2009, volunteer attorneys in partnership with CVLC have resolved 609 legal issues. Their impact is transformative. In the past six years, they have won over $725,000 in lump sum and retroactive payments for veterans recovering from homelessness and mental illness. In the past year alone, volunteers donated an estimated $805,000 in time on 272 cases. In CVLC’s lifetime, the total amount of donated time exceeds $2.3 million.
These cases are not simple, though. VA Benefits cases, for example, can take years from start to finish, and require expertise in a complex area of the law. The NobleCause grant will help us fund our Service Pledge and our Advanced VA Benefits Training for 2016.
The Service Pledge is a two-way commitment between CVLC and participating volunteers. Volunteers who take the Pledge will become VA accredited, take VA Benefits Training, and commit to taking on one case. In return, CVLC helps these volunteer attorneys have a rewarding and successful experience as they work through their cases. This will create an even stronger support system for Connecticut’s disabled veterans because our corps of volunteer attorneys can represent them even more adeptly.
CVLC’s Service Pledge participants will donate over $400,000 in time by the end of their representation. But in the end, what keeps attorneys volunteering and CVLC improving is the way legal representation can truly change veterans’ lives.
One of our clients, Mr. Jones*, was honorably discharged but denied benefits for a deteriorating and debilitating psychiatric condition that worsened in the decade after returning to Connecticut. A volunteer attorney through CVLC reviewed his previous claims, researched schizophrenia, consulted a volunteer medical expert, and submitted a new application for VA benefits. Thirty years after his first application, the VA granted Mr. Jones’ claim providing him stable tax-free compensation for life.
Mr. Jones calls the brief prepared by his attorney a “work of art.” After thirty years of discouraging news, Mr. Jones felt like he would never get benefits. And he could do so only because of the expert volunteer representation he received.
We’re grateful and proud that our corps of attorneys are caring, skilled, and committed volunteers. Now, with support from NobleCause to improve our training and Service Pledge, they’ll only become more so.
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The NobleCause grants, organized by Get.NobleHour.com, were made possible by an anonymous donor within the GiveWell Community Foundation, which serves Polk County, Florida. The NobleCause grant competition, launched in 2015, invited high schools, school districts, colleges and universities, and nonprofits to identify and address a local challenge and to recruit and enrich the social responsibility of volunteers. 100 organizations were awarded $6,500 grants, while seven exemplary organizations were recognized at the $50,000 level. Get.NobleHour.com is dedicated to using NobleCause to increase volunteerism that raises awareness at the local level and develops community members who can take action.
Since 2007, NobleHour has proven to be the volunteer management solution for organizations across the nation. With its robust online platform, NobleHour enhances community engagement with a variety of innovative and transformative tools for finding, tracking, and measuring volunteer, service‐learning, and community service initiatives. With offices in Lakeland, FL, and Portland, OR, the NobleHour team is dedicated to empowering good in communities across the country.