2014 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Keith Hoffmann

Keith Hoffmann

Name of Host Organization: New York Legal Assistance Group
City, State: New York, New York
Issue area: Veterans' Rights, Disability Rights
Sponsors: Latham & Watkins LLP

The Project

Keith expanded medical-legal partnerships at Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers in New York and provided legal assistance, education and outreach to veterans.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
Veterans have a significant need for legal representation that is often unmet by existing civil legal aid providers. Veterans face staggering challenges as they return from Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and New Dawn. They often return home with physical and mental disabilities caused by war, and may be further disadvantaged by poverty and a lack of knowledge of their legal rights. Medical and financial catastrophe can often arise from the extended wait for or erroneous denial of VA benefits and other legal issues. This project's hospital-based model of providing legal services presented a unique opportunity to help veterans in need of legal assistance for various issues to navigate a complex legal/VA structure.
Fellowship Highlights: 
In the past two years, Keith has:
• Expanded Veterans’ access to legal services and Veterans benefits through two legal clinics at VA medical centers in Manhattan and the Bronx, serving more than 500 veterans with legal problems
• Pioneered the Legal Stand Down series, which educated more than 800 Veterans about their legal rights through information sessions and Q&As with legal experts at the VA medical centers
• Published, with support from Latham & Watkins, two editions of “The New York City Veteran’s Legal Guide”. This first-of-its-kind legal manual encompasses multiple civil legal areas including family law, housing law, VA benefits and other public benefits issues, debt management, tax law, and employment law. More than 1000 copies of the legal guide are being distributed to veterans and VA healthcare providers and staff.
• Liaised with VA policymakers at the federal and local level and advocated for issues that affect veterans who have disabilities.
Where are they now?: 
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Keith plans to:
• Continue his work representing veterans and growing VA medical-legal partnerships at the New York Legal Assistance Group.

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