Mobile Law Office Brings Pro Bono Assistance to Veterans

The University of Detroit Mercy School of Law is addressing the growing legal needs of low-income veterans with two programs – Project Salute and its Veteran’s Law Clinic.  These programs both focus on assisting veterans access federal disability and pension benefits through education, law student representation, and pro bono attorney referral.

The mission of Project SALUTE is to “hit the highways to provide priceless legal advice to low income veterans for free and teach students the invaluable lesson of using the law to serve.”  The work of the students, faculty, and staff of Project SALUTE is supported by a custom designed 31-foot Mobile Law Office, built and donated by General Motors.

Since 2008, the program has provided pro bono assistance to more than 800 veterans and trained more than 300 lawyers to serve as pro bono veteran advocates in Michigan.  In addition to serving Michigan veterans,  Project SALUTE has reached veterans in more than 13 states and 22 cities across the country.   This year more than 65 clinics for veterans have been held across Michigan, with 35 additional clinics scheduled to take place this fall.

The Executive Director of Project SALUTE, Tammy Kudialis, highlighted the changing face of the veteran community and the growing need for assistance.

“You may think of the Veterans’ Administration helping older veterans who served in Vietnam, Korea and even World War II, but Afghanistan is the longest running war in U.S. history.  More than 36,000 troops have been wounded in action (in Afghanistan and Iraq) and all those veterans need our help.”  Read more.

Many veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq suffer from mental health problems.  According to Jim McGuire, a health care administrator at the the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, as many as “27 percent of active-duty veterans returning to civilian life ‘were at risk for mental health problems’ including post-traumatic stress syndrome.”

Homelessness is another problem plaguing the veteran community.  According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, approximately 107,000 veterans experienced homelessness on any given night, in 2009, and an estimated 44,000 to 66,000 veterans are chronically homeless.  Michael Taub, a Staff Attorney at Homeless Advocacy Project in Philadelphia, shared the insights he has gained working with homeless veterans earlier this year on our blog.

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