Paula Clamurro, MSW, JD, is launching a strategic Veterans Empowerment Initiative with Neighborhood Legal Services Los Angeles (NLSLA) that will provide holistic advocacy and pro bono supports in serving veterans. She will collaborate with Pepperdine Law School and directly assist veterans in obtaining service-connected income benefits, discharge-upgrades, expungement of criminal records, and accessing public benefits, health care, housing, employment, and other resources towards achieving self-sufficiency.
Disability, health issues, and a lack of access to benefits and health care continue to plague our veterans at high rates, often leading to mental health issues, unemployment, incarceration, and homelessness. Service-related injuries may also have led to an unfavorable discharge, which can prevent veterans from obtaining benefits and can limit their opportunities. Only about half of disabled veterans know that they might be eligible for Veterans Administration (VA) income benefits or for other veteran supports. Recently in 2014, the Department of Defense issued a monumental directive that will now allow veterans to qualify for Honorable Discharge status by retroactively recognizing Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) as a disability, which will open doors for thousands more Vietnam Era veterans to- receive needed benefits. NLSLA provides legal services throughout Los Angeles County, and will target services to the estimated 115,000 veterans who live in the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valley region, which has been historically underserved.
During Paula’s Fellowship, Paula:
- Provided direct legal services to veterans via legal clinics;
- Recruited, trained, and supported case managers, law students, and law firm pro bono volunteers in a veteran services clinical program;
- Established a coordinated referral system for veterans to access legal services at NLSLA;
- Created and fostered special partnerships between NLSLA and existing veteran programs to develop solutions to aid veterans’ re-entry into the community.