In 2016, University of Southern California’s Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families partnered with Loyola University Chicago’s School of Social Work to publish The State of the American Veteran: The Chicagoland Veterans Study (the Chicagoland study), which surveyed nearly 1,300 veterans—along with follow-up focus groups with 20 veterans—in Cook, DuPage, Lake and Will counties. The study identified approximately 300,000 veterans in the area and found that many service members leaving the military and returning to Chicagoland are not prepared for the transition home and have a range of needs that cannot be easily addressed by a single organization.
While there are a wide range of organizations working to meet the needs of veterans both locally and nationally, few—if any—provide holistic support to veterans, active service members, and their families. As a result, veterans and their families often find their housing in jeopardy and their family unit unstable. Too often, veterans and their families have to navigate multiple service providers to address intrinsically connected legal and social-emotional issues. Providing a single destination where veterans, active service members, and their families can come for legal services—as well as receive or be referred for social-emotional support—eliminates this major barrier to access and promote a healthy overall transition back to civilian life.
In an effort to more effectively serve this vulnerable population, the Veterans Practicum offers senior law students the opportunity to represent veterans in their while earning experiential learning credits under the supervision of the director, Emily Vaughan. A collaboration between the Loyola Community Law Center and the School of Social Work, the Veterans Practicum aims to bridge the gap in current services through a cross-disciplinary effort designed to better address local veterans’ social and legal needs. The Clinic provides veterans, active service members, and their families, with general legal representation in a wide variety of civil litigation and is a member of the Illinois Armed Forced Legal Aid Network as well as access to a social worker for case management support.
The Veterans Practicum handles family law related matters, minor and adult guardianships, housing issues, and can execute simple wills/ powers of attorney. Senior law students who enroll in the Veterans Practicum course must be available for weekly office hours as well as attend a weekly lecture. The purpose of the classroom component is to provide students with a theoretical overview of the lawyering skills that are required in their representation of veteran clients.