Extending a Helping Hand
The Bob Woodruff Foundation helps fund the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, an organization dedicated to eliminating legal barriers between veterans and essential services. For Veterans facing legal issues, together, “We’ve Got Your 6!”
All too often the trajectory of our lives is upended by what may be unnecessary or unpredictable obstacles. For some veterans, many of the difficult challenges they face begin after their service to our country has concluded. Access to healthcare, affordable housing, and disability benefits can often be out of reach. Navigating the complex legal landscape to overcome these obstacles is difficult, if not impossible for those without expert assistance. For our veterans and their families facing complex legal issues, sometimes all they need is a helping hand.
The Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC) provides free legal assistance to veterans who may not be in a position to access these services on their own.
“All of the work we do is aimed at reducing the legal barriers to housing, healthcare, and income for our veteran clients,”Liam Brennan, Executive Director of (CVLC)
Veterans can face significant hardships if they are discharged from the military under Other Than Honorable (OTH) conditions. John Rios, a Navy veteran, experienced trauma related to his military service, and subsequently suffered from PTSD, which impacted his conduct and led to an OTH discharge. This designation made inaccessible the benefits he needed to become well.
“My OTH had a certain code attached and because of that I lost everything,” Rios said. I had nothing.”
Rios worked hard for years to alter his designation but was unsuccessful. Without assistance, fighting an OTC is quite an uphill battle for one person. Fortunately, CVLC was eventually able to help. Through their Discharge Upgrade Project, CVLC was able to work hard on behalf of Rios and help him retroactively obtain an Honorable discharge.
“The upgrade to Honorable changes everything,” Rios said. “Having someone push on my behalf was a life-changer. I’ve been working on this for 18 years, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of CVLC. If it weren’t for them, none of the paperwork would have been in and no one would have taken it seriously.”
It may be an unfortunate reality, but access to legal services is often the difference between having a voice or living in the shadows—living without access to essential services such as mental health treatment.
“CVLC has learned that veteran-specific legal aid can have an outsized impact on veterans’ lives,” Brennan said.
The Bob Woodruff Foundation understands that professional services can be critical as veterans try to reintegrate into their communities. We’ve been proud to fund CVLC’s Discharge Upgrade Project.
“By supporting CVLC’s Discharge Upgrade Project, BWF has invested in bringing these services nationwide through the creation of a discharge upgrade manual,” Brennan said. “This will allow pro bono attorneys and legal aid practitioners nationwide help to provide legal services that can obtain veterans access to retirement income, healthcare, educational services, and jobs. This is a forward-looking perspective that advances a whole field of law.”
“BWF’s willingness to partner in this endeavor and to think strategically about the widespread impact of its work will pay dividends for veterans in need of assistance,” Brennan said. “Their support has been a force multiplier for our work and for that we are extremely grateful.”
Fighting for access to mental health treatment while dealing with PTSD certainly presented some difficult moments for Rios. He has one simple recommendation for others who find themselves in a similar position—don’t give up. “Hope is necessary – we need to shed light and bring hope to the veteran community.”