2014 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Michael Stone

Michael Stone

City, State: Baltimore, Maryland
Issue area: Housing/Homelessness, Veterans' Rights
Sponsors: Lockheed Martin; Hogan Lovells

The Project

Michael assisted homeless and at-risk veterans in rural Maryland by providing civil legal aid and advocacy on Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and other issues through the innovative use of technology linking pro bono attorneys to rural veterans.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
Rural homeless or at-risk veterans continue to face incredible hurdles in obtaining the VA benefits and relief to which they are entitled. Accordingly, veterans comprise a greater proportion of the homeless population in rural Maryland than in urban Maryland, yet no pro bono services existed that were targeted at serving rural homeless veterans in the state. The absence of services coupled with the lack of mass transit meant that rural homeless and at-risk veterans were cut off from access to civil legal aid. The project, the Rural Veterans Legal Assistance Project, brought pro bono legal assistance to them. Michael used lay volunteers and Skype to connect urban, central Maryland pro bono attorneys to homeless or at-risk veterans in rural intake centers. The project not only helped rural homeless veterans receive the benefits they are entitled to, but will also brought visibility to an otherwise forgotten rural population.
Fellowship Highlights: 
In the past two years, Michael has:
• Assisted 94 homeless or at-risk veterans with Veteran benefits issues and criminal record expungement—most would not have had access to civil legal aid without the project
• Opened two permanent legal clinics in rural Maryland, covering the high-need geographic regions of Cecil Co., Harford Co., and Southern Maryland
• Trained 104 attorneys in VA benefits law and furthered the Maryland Bar’s involvement pro bono involvement in assisting homeless or at-risk veterans.
Where are they now?: 
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Michael plans to:
• Continue serving homeless veterans at HPRP, with a focus on rural or otherwise disconnected rural Marylanders and maintaining the rural legal clinics
• Create a network of veteran resources in Maryland in order to better serve homeless veterans in need
• Expand the use of Skype for all HPRP volunteers in order to expand the pool of available volunteers to help homeless or at-risk clients with legal needs

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