KU Law receives $1.6M grant to aid veterans

LAWRENCE – The University of Kansas School of Law is set to receive $1.6 million in federal funding for the establishment of a free legal aid clinic dedicated to serving veterans. With an estimated 194,000 veterans in Kansas, the clinic would be the first of its kind in the state.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a 1982 graduate of KU Law, helped secure federal appropriations to fund the new clinic and made the announcement at a special event held April 12 at the law school. A staunch advocate for veterans' rights, Moran underscored the significance of the clinic in fulfilling commitments to those who have served their country, noting that 88% of low-income veterans have inadequate or no legal assistance.

“Let's make certain that the promises that were made are promises that are kept,” Moran said. “This is one more step in Americans saying that we are going to keep our commitments to those who served. We're going to care for them and try to meet their needs. In this case, in their interaction with the Department of Veterans Affairs and with legal issues that entered their lives.”

The clinic aims to provide crucial assistance to veterans facing legal obstacles that can prevent them from returning and thriving in civilian life such as disability claims, discharge upgrades or criminal charges stemming from a service-connected issue. The clinic would also provide aid for more common issues like debt collection, family law, child support, landlord/tenant disputes and revoked driver's licenses.

Cody White, a first-year law student and veteran, shared his personal experience navigating legal challenges following his 16 years of service in the Marine Corps. When his military career ended abruptly due to a diabetes diagnosis, he faced a behemoth of administrative issues with the departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense.

“Fortunately for me, I was provided legal counsel to go through that process, to help me, to guide me, to assist me through the dark, murky waters. But unfortunately, thousands of veterans a year do not have such luck,” White said. “The establishment of a veterans legal clinic at KU Law will help end this tragic reality, and it will serve as a beacon of hope for veterans who navigate complex legal issues.”

Citing the law school’s existing pro bono initiatives such as the Legal Aid Clinic, Medical Legal Partnership, Project for Innocence, Elder Law Field Placement Program and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program, Dean Stephen Mazza emphasized the law school's commitment to service and the community.

“KU Law has a long history of serving the legal needs of those who otherwise cannot afford legal representation,” Mazza said. “These clinics and partnerships have made an important positive impact on our community, and they are an important part of the legacy of this law school.”

The veterans legal aid clinic represents a significant expansion of KU Law's commitment to service and experiential learning. Through hands-on involvement in the clinic, students will gain practical legal skills while making a real impact in the lives of veterans.

“The veterans clinic provides the law school with an important opportunity to be of service to veterans, service to the state of Kansas, and to provide a rich and important educational experience for our students at KU Law,” Mazza said.

The idea for the clinic originated many years ago with retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Clyde J. “Butch” Tate, a 1982 graduate of KU Law. The project has long been supported by retired Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, also a1982 graduate of KU Law who has worked tirelessly to create a system of veteran treatment courts in Kansas. Both were in attendance to celebrate the clinic’s announcement.

The five-year grant will provide a director and staff attorneys. The clinic is expected to open next year.

Fri, 04/19/2024


Julie Francisco

Media Contacts

Julie Francisco

School of Law