CLIENT IMPACT STORIES
Mike is an 80-year-old veteran and member of the Greatest Generation, who always paid his bills on time before he became sick. As his medical bills outpaced his social security, he defaulted on his real estate taxes. His fully paid-off home was his sole asset. With his property taxes in arrears, a third party purchased Mike’s taxes and he was on the brink of losing his home. Mike frantically called our veterans’ hotline. With just days to spare, we connected him with a pro bono attorney, who was able to get an extension on the case and assisted Mike in saving his home.
Bill was a veteran that called the IL-AFLAN hotline in frustration when he was unable to navigate complicated medical benefits on his own. Our attorney stepped in at the crucial moment to guide Bill through his next steps to secure his VA disability benefits, obtain the medical care he needed, and even assist him as he launched a new business. Bill has moved forward with life and business and believes that CARPLS attorneys are among his trusted advisors. He noted on an evaluation: “I am extremely satisfied. Very expedient, high class, high touch, personable professionalism. All of the recommendations are being followed up and the results are pouring in with positive resolve. Special thanks to Attorney Pat - you are a God-send!”
CARPLS assisted a veteran in helping to clear up an old eviction case that was impacting his ability to receive a VA mortgage. The client said, “Steve P was professional, concise, and compassionate. Steve asked kindly and to the point questions to better address the legal issue. I felt confident in his answers and explanation. He was able to ease my anxiety and stress level to the point I could listen and understand. I am a USAF combat medic deployed to Vietnam on SAR missions that brought home American Airman shot down in combat over enemy territory. I am currently under the care and treatment at the VA Hines Hospital for combat PTSD. As we succeeded in our mission, Steve succeeded in his help to me. Thank you. God Bless you and the team at IL-AFLAN."
CDEL had a veteran come to our Legal Clinic at Jesse Brown VA who was significantly behind on his mortgage and assessments and was facing foreclosure. As the foreclosure continued, CDEL was able to execute an additional settlement, by which the Veteran was able to tender ownership of the unit with no deficiency and no harm to his public benefits. Veteran was able to move into his supportive housing, where he is safe and stable and able to receive the minimal support he needed.
Retired Navy veteran Robert spends his free time volunteering at the Bob Michel Veterans’ Administration hospital in Peoria. He needed a pro bono attorney in Peoria to help him revise his will. It wasn’t too complicated but he wanted to make sure it was done right so that his heirs would be protected. Through the IL-AFLAN network, CVLS was able to connect Robert with a wills and trusts attorney who got him a will fixed up no problem.
Sean’s case was pretty simple—he wanted a divorce after a brief, unhappy marriage with no children and no joint property. What complicated it, though, was that this active duty soldier had been deployed to Japan, in the “Area of Responsibility” for North Korea. CVLS was able to meet with Sean, prepare his documents, and get everything signed two days before he left for Japan.
Roderick R. is an 84-year-old Korean War veteran who lives in Mississippi. Roderick’s adult son was being sued in Illinois for $4,000,000 by a former employer who, it appears, had some shady business practices. Roderick had never been employed by this man, but he got dragged into the suit anyway, probably because he has assets, including a home. Robert contacted IL-AFLAN, who connected him with CVLS, who arranged for a big private firm to take the case for free. After a brief legal tussle, CVLS and Roderick emerged victorious and got the entire case dismissed.
We were thrilled to help a Desert Storm-era veteran who had been seeking VA disability benefits for a service-connected condition. The veteran makes under $40,000 per year and the condition for which he sought help affected his ability to be gainfully and productively employed. He recently was informed by the VA that his claim was granted. He is now receiving an additional $950 per month in disability benefits compensation.
A LAF IL-AFLAN attorney assisted a veteran with an honorable discharge who the VA determined is 100% disabled because of severe schizophrenia. Suddenly, his benefits were cut off. During this time without benefits he committed a low-level crime and a warrant was issued for his arrest. His criminal case was transferred to the mental health unit, the charges were dropped, and the warrant was quashed. However, the VA noted that a warrant had been issued in his name, and stopped paying his benefits. This was contrary to VA regulations. LAF submitted documentation, including court documents and supporting statements from the client’s treating physicians, and the client’s benefits were restored in less than a month. This meant that the client was able to maintain his housing, remain stable, and continue his health care.
A LAF IL-AFLAN attorney assisted a veteran with mental health issues who was facing a rating reduction. This client, who served in the Navy in the 1980s, was rated at 100% disabled for PTSD. The VA proposed to reduce his monthly benefits by more than half, based on his alleged improvement. However, his medical records did not show that he had improved, only that his symptoms had changed over the years. He was still significantly impaired by his PTSD. LAF gathered his medical records and laid out a very clear argument for the hearing officer, listing each place in the medical records where the client’s severe symptoms were noted, and proved 100% incapacitation by VA standards. Less than two weeks later, we got the decision: our client remained at his current level of benefits, which was more than $3,300 per month. If he had been reduced to 70%, he would have received less than $1,400 per month, and would not have been eligible for the caregiver. This kind of income loss would have destabilized this client.
Mr. M served in the Marines from 2000-2006 and was deployed to Iraq and injured by multiple IEDs. He suffers from PTSD, TBI, migraines, and back problems. When he sought help from IL-AFLAN, he was already receiving VA service connected benefits at about $1,400/month. Mr. M stopped working completely in 2012 due to health issues, and he was unable to return to work. He was suffering from regular seizures and needed home care. An LAF attorney represented him in his VA service connected benefits case at the regional office, and got his benefits increased to more than $3,300/month, and his back benefits were over $200,000. This means the client will have more flexibility in terms of living arrangements, which will be better for his PTSD, and he will have the in-home care he needs.
One of our IL-AFLAN funded attorneys assisted a 65-year-old disabled, homeless, Vietnam veteran with critical medical and mental issues. He was malnourished and confused, living alone in Tennessee when his estranged adult daughter came and took him to Illinois. She then drained his bank account, including his veteran’s pension and Social Security disability payment. She physically abused him. Eventually, our client made his way to a homeless shelter, which contacted IL-AFLAN. Our attorneys assisted the client in getting his identification, opening a new bank account, and setting up safeguards with the bank, VA, and Social Security Administration to keep his daughter off the accounts. Through the assistance of our IL-AFLAN attorney, this veteran is residing in an assisted living facility, is protected from further abuse and exploitation by his daughter, and he has monthly income to meet his day-to-day needs.
A IL-AFLAN attorney assisted a 58-year-old spouse and her Airforce veteran husband. Our clients came to our office because of horrible living conditions at their rental home. This led to disagreements with the landlord, who eventually tried to evict them for failure to pay rent. Our attorney got the case dismissed and had the record sealed to protect our clients and ensure they wouldn’t have trouble finding additional housing.
Our IL-AFLAN attorney assisted a 61-year-old, widowed veteran who has lost 90% of his sight. The trouble started when his adult son moved back into his house. The son started stealing our client’s money and when confronted about it, physically attacked our client. Our attorney represented the veteran in court and helped him obtain an Order of Protection for two years and a court order of exclusive possession of his home. After the hearing, our attorney explained to the client about safety planning and other community resources available to him. She also reminded the client to call the police immediately if his son comes around him, his home, or his business. The client was very relieved to get the Order of Protection, and he now feels safer, knowing that if his son comes near him, his home, or his business, he can call the police, and ask that his son be removed, or arrested.
Our IL-AFLAN attorney represented a 26-year-old veteran suffering from depression, anxiety, and PTSD. He was a student at the local university and worked two part-time minimum wage jobs. Because of his significant mental health issues, he dropped out of school and lost both jobs. He donated his plasma several times a month to make ends meet. After four months of not being able to pay rent, he was served with an eviction notice and was extremely overwhelmed by the possibility of losing his apartment, which was his safe haven. Through aggressive representation, our IL-AFLAN attorney reached a settlement with the landlord that included a reduction of the amount owed, a payment plan, and the continuation of the lease. Our attorney worked with a local veteran’s program to provide financial assistance that was used to pay the past due rent that was owed. With stable housing, and no longer threatened by losing his safe haven, this veteran redirected his energy to stabilizing his mental health, and re-enrolled in college. He graduated, obtained employment, and as of our last contact, has remain gainfully employed.
An honorably discharged Army veteran came into our office after seeing our informational flyer in the waiting room of Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. Our office is representing the veteran as he seeks to legally adopt his adult step-daughter and update his will. In addition, our social work intern is working with him and his family to identify financial resources and benefits that may be available to supplement their current income. While this is still an active representation, the veteran told us that our assistance provided him peace of mind and hope, after his phone calls to numerous other attorneys and providers left his questions unanswered.
An honorably discharged Navy veteran was contacted by a former girlfriend, who lives out of state, to let him know that he is the father of her two-year-old son. However, she had named another man on the minor’s birth certificate. She was now asking the client to come pick up the child, whom he never met or had known about previously, as she could no longer care for him. The client, already a single father of three, could not stand to think of a child feeling unwanted by a parent. As a result, he drove to Florida and picked up the minor from his mother. He later took a certified paternity test establishing with 99.9% percent certainly that he was the father. The clinic helped him establish parentage and decision-making authority for the minor. Since then, the LUVC has been able to provide the client with case management services in order to assist him in amending the minor’s birth certificate. The LUVC is currently assisting the client in helping him navigate the protocols required to change the minor’s last name.
Through IL-AFLAN, a veteran was able to stay together with her minor child. The child’s other parent had recently passed away and the deceased parent’s surviving family had filed a guardianship petition so that they would have guardianship over the child, even though the veteran had been an active part of the child’s life prior to the other parent’s death. A PILI pro bono attorney assisted the veteran in filing an answer, attended the hearing with the veteran, was able to get the guardianship petition denied, and helped the veteran work out a visitation schedule for the deceased parent’s family. Without the assistance of IL-AFLAN and the volunteer attorney’s generosity and skill in representing the veteran, the veteran may not have been able to obtain custody of her child. Now, this veteran can be there for her child when the child needs a mom the most.
We were contacted by the director of our local Vet Center regarding a Vietnam combat veteran who recently had been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer and given just a few weeks to live. He had not made any arrangements in anticipation of his death and wanted to be sure his long-term partner as well as his adult daughter were taken care of after he passed. With the help of several PSLS staff, we were able to draft six legal documents for the client, including a will, a healthcare and a property power of attorney, a living will, a social security release, and a Transfer of Death Instrument (TODI) for his home. Two days after our initial meeting, four PSLS staffers traveled to the client’s home, two to witness documents and one to notarize the execution of the documents with the client. He passed away shortly thereafter, but with the peace and knowledge that his loved ones would be taken care of.
Our client, a 75-year-old honorably discharged veteran, was convicted in 1958 of armed robbery in adult court at age 15. He served 18 months in a juvenile detention facility, joined the military, got married, had a family, and worked his whole life with no other criminal history. Five years ago, he applied to be a part-time school bus driver with his local school district. He disclosed the nearly 60-year-old conviction to his employer, but the conviction did not appear on the initial background check, and he was hired. He loved his job. However, after about 5 years of employment with the district, a new, fingerprint-based background check revealed the conviction, and the client was terminated. PSLS filed a petition to seal the conviction and a petition for a certificate of good conduct. As a result of PSLS advocacy, the client was able to seal his one and only criminal conviction and obtain a certificate of good standing from the Court. Most importantly, because of the records relief, he was able to get his old job back.
Prairie State mobilized two staff attorneys to assist a Navy veteran and single mother of three with two legal issues in two different counties. AFLAN attorneys helped the veteran obtain guardianship over her now adult severely disabled son so that she could continue to manage his affairs. PSLS AFLAN attorneys also had the veteran’s two dismissed criminal charges which were hampering her employment prospects expunged.
VA benefits appeals and discharge upgrades can take many years to resolve. But, several veterans expressed appreciation for our willingness to look at their matter when no one else would help them. We gave them no assurances of success, only that we would review their matter, research the law, and attempt to formulate a persuasive appeal. In their words, this gave them "hope."
The Veteran was rated 60% disabled for Ischemic Heart Disease and 20% for one other disability, for a total of 70%. He received a total benefit of $1,481 a month. After a poorly conducted physical by a contract doctor, the Veteran’s disability rating for Ischemic Heart Disease was reduced to 10%. With his other rated disability, he was now rated at 30%, and now would only receive $457 a month. The SIU AFLAN attorney appealed the reduction, arguing that the physical used to reduce the benefit was not as thorough as the physical used to initially grant the disability, as required by law. The appeal was successful and the veteran received a back pay check for $7,331 and the Veteran’s pay will return to the former amount of $1,481.
The Veteran is rated 100% disabled for VA purposes and receiving monetary benefits. In 2012, the Veteran was receiving benefits at the “with one dependent” rate for his wife. In July 2012, the Veteran’s wife passed away. As required by the VA, the Veteran contacted the VA and reported the death of his wife. The Veteran continued to receive the same amount of money, at the “with one dependent rate”, but because of several intervening factors, he was unaware that he was receiving the same amount of money. In mid-2018, the Veteran received an updated report on his VA benefits and realized that he was still receiving the incorrect amount, with dependents. The SIU IL-AFLAN attorney worked with the Veteran to submit an inquiry to the VA, arguing that the Veteran had timely notified the VA, but the VA had overlooked the Veteran’s notification. In December 2018, the VA notified the Veteran they had made a mistake and would not require the Veteran to repay the $13,248 in overpaid benefits.
- Successfully launched a new state-wide IL-AFLAN Hotline within 60 days of the start of the grant period
- Developed and distributed new promotional materials about the new IL-AFLAN Hotline to all Veterans Assistance Commissions and IDVA Veteran Service Officers officers across Illinois
- Development and launch of the online IL-AFLAN Partner Community to facilitate electronic referrals and increased collaboration among network partners
Chicago Volunteer Legal Services
We have been able to place some very difficult litigation cases with volunteers, such as construction law/mechanic’s liens cases. These cases require specialized knowledge and must go to attorneys who practice in this area. As these cases came in, we went beyond our normal volunteer list, including some cold calling, to find attorneys willing and able to take them. We have been successful. We’ve been excited to see the positive reactions we get from attorneys when we explain that these clients are vets who need help dealing with unscrupulous contractors.
Center for Disability & Elder Law
- Expanded services at the Jesse Brown VA medical-legal partnership and now are working to expand services to Hines VA.
Prairie State Legal Services
PSLS provides civil legal assistance in 36 counties in Illinois. During our first grant year, nearly 40 PSLS staff attorneys and volunteers provided services to veterans and their families under the AFLAN grant in 30 of our 36 counties. Additionally, we provided services to people in 6 counties OUTSIDE of our service area. This is notable not only because it speaks to the need for civil legal aid for the veteran population, but it is also reflective of our organization-wide efforts to connect veteran clients in our service area with civil legal aid.
John Marshall Law School
Providing legal aid is not always about winning cases. One of the Veteran Legal Support Clinic's biggest accomplishments, as it relates to the IL-AFLAN grant, is educating veterans about their benefits and rights under the law. Many veterans spend years fighting for benefits from the VA or seeking a discharge upgrade. Many of these veterans are unaware of the reasons they are being denied benefits or an upgrade. One of the best services the VLSC provides is explaining and educating these veterans on why their cases have not shown sufficient merit per the VA and under military law. Being given an adequate explanation of why their case is being denied is many times a big relief and a load off the veterans mind because they finally have an answer.
One of LAF’s most notable project accomplishments is the growth of the records summits, which are events where we have pro bono attorneys help veterans order their claims files, official military personnel files, and medical records to support their veterans’ benefits and discharge upgrade claims. We have just started seeing clients come back to us with their records. We recently accepted a case for a client with an Agent Orange related claim who used a records event to get his claims file.
Land of Lincoln
Land of Lincoln was successful in getting the IL-AFLAN information added to the statewide American Legion mailer. This mailer goes out to over 100 posts statewide, and over 80,000 veterans.
Loyola Law School
Under the IL-AFLAN grant, Loyola has been able to launch our Veterans Legal Clinic and Practicum, which allows law student and masters-level social work students to represent veterans and their family members. We have already had three veteran law students participate in this experiential learning course, one of whom is a Purple Heart recipient of the Marines Corps. Having veteran law students participate in the project provides insight to fellow students and encourages the class to think critically about the needs of this highly valued group.
Southern Illinois University School of Law
Our most notable organizational accomplishment is the expansion of our services to include civil legal matters. We originally planned to work only on discharge upgrades and VA benefits appeals, but saw the need in our area to take on civil matters like consumer and family cases when no other legal aid options were available.
This is wonderful service. They truly are an inspiration to all of us veterans who need guidance and support when it comes to legal matters. I will definitely refer any of my fellow veterans who need guidance and support about legal matters to them. Thank you for your service!
They helped me cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s.
This was the best advice that was given to me in a long time.
While my case is not complete yet, but I feel that IL-AFLAN was a tremendous asset to assisting me with my issue.
I am still nervous, but now I feel like I can better answer this question once I go to court. Thank you.
IL-AFLAN helped me understand what I needed to do to help me get my concealed carry after getting denied three years ago.
They helped me understand all the steps and the right way to proceed.
I was happy to converse with an attorney. I did not know that such a program exists. The attorney was helpful. Thanks for having him call me. I have recommended another veteran family to call them. I really needed some help with this. Thanks!
The IL-AFLAN attorney took her time and asked me to explain in detail the reason that I needed an attorney. I was very detailed and she gave her feedback regarding my situation and stated that she or someone from the office will be given me a call regarding my matter. The following week I was in touch with someone that I was referred to in my state and I had an appointment the same week. I am so grateful that this team worked together for me to hold on to a very precious gift my deceased husband worked so hard to give to me and our children. Thank you all for following up to make sure that I was being taken care.
The attorney gave me a better understanding of what my options are and how to better solve my problem.
Speaking with an IL-AFLAN attorney was very helpful and lifted my spirits and will likely help me address the issue we discussed.
The hotline attorney was polite and very helpful.
Speaking to an IL-AFLAN attorney helped me a lot because I'm in a very hard situation right now and was ready to file my documents and represent myself. Understanding my options and ways to go about it helped me a lot and gave me resources that I will benefit from in the long run. I never was the type to ask for help, but now that I have opened up to receiving advice and help I understand what it means when people say "A closed mouth don't get fed". Thank you very much.
The IL-AFLAN attorney really helped me with my legal issues. They walked me step by step to get the job done and when I got a court date they made the call to get me a lawyer to appear in court for me. Might I add all for free! Loved the service and what they provide!
Just having someone who listened to me talk about my problem made me feel better and like someone cared about me.
After talking with an IL-AFLAN attorney I no longer feel powerless regarding my situation where I was being financial exploited by my previous employer and even my family.
It helped knowing that there is an avenue for me to get help.
The IL-AFLAN team has exceeded our expectations. The attorney was optimistic from the beginning that our matter would be resolved. His confidence alleviated our anxiety over the situation and we couldn't be more pleased.
I am extremely satisfied. Very expedient, high class, high touch, personable professionalism. All of the recommendations are being followed up and the results are pouring in with positive resolve. My AFLAN attorney is a god-send!
I was in a vulnerable position being emotionally, mentally, and financially abused which appears intentional, not in good faith, and performed with full knowledge that my loss would be his gain. After speaking with an IL-AFLAN attorney I felt that my voice mattered for the first time in this long struggle and I believe that a fair settlement is actually possible in Illinois. Thank you from a 62 year old recently disabled veteran for this project and for your outstanding service.
I talked to two AFLAN attorneys and now I have a better understanding of the legal process. It eased my anxiety and feeling of hopelessness with my situation.
The IL-AFLAN attorney was very helpful in assisting me with our legal questions.
We have confidence in the IL-AFLAN team that's working with us to get the job done.
Speaking with IL-AFLAN has alleviated our anxiety about the legal issue we are facing. Our attorney's team has been prompt, friendly, professional. We are thankful that they have been able to assist us.
Advice was given honestly and very professional.
The attorney I spoke with was able to clarify an ambiguous statute.
The IL-AFLAN team continues to consistently exceed our expectations with their prompt, professional assistance.
I felt relieved; like a weight lifted off of my shoulders
The attorney genuinely wanted to help me in my situation and reassured me that people would try to help me.
The legal aid we have received from IL-AFLAN has been invaluable to my husband, who is a disabled veteran, and I. We are so grateful that this organization exists to help veterans.
I appreciate having a clear line of communication.
I couldn’t believe that found myself in this situation in December, being harassed to sign documents for no good reason. I had to cancel a doctors appointment and delay Christmas planning. I am so grateful that I could have an advocate during such a trying time.
I spoke with them and they were sincere in handling my case. Before I did not understand how to proceed, and they lifted the problem off my shoulders.
Thank you so much for the help. I am very happy and will refer others.
I never knew about this program but I am happy I do now. When I called I thought this would be another organization that would not help, but the lawyer was very knowledgeable and started the process off smoothly for me. Thanks so much!
The attorney helped me figure out what kinds of recourse I might have for my legal issue, and directed me to resources that helped me find a lawyer I may not have found otherwise.
I have not re-visited my case in many years and the laws have changed greatly. I appreciate them taking the time to listen to my situation and try to find a resolution.
It brought joy in my life after talking with them, and I will continue to call for help when I need it. Thanks again.
ILAFLAN helped me to understand the legal process involved in my case and refer me to an attorney who can provide counsel and represent me in court.
The legal advice that I was given was very helpful. The fears that I had prior to talking to the lawyer were quickly relieved. I am looking forward to working with AFLAN, and will be passing on my recommendation to family and friends.
They gave me direction.
Information given to us is detailed about what's going on with our claim. This gives us assurance and reassurance.