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VALOR hosts free legal clinic for 30 area veterans

VALOR students pose with veteran and Professor George Walker, Professor Beth Hopkins and Army Major Gen. Gill Beck at the WFU Tennis Center as part of VALOR's free veterans clinic events.

VALOR students pose with veteran and Professor George Walker, Professor Beth Hopkins and Army Major Gen. Gill Beck at the WFU Tennis Center as part of VALOR's free veterans clinic events.

The Wake Forest University School of Law Veterans Advocacy Law Organization (VALOR) hosted a free legal clinic for 30 area veterans on Friday, Feb. 3.

VALOR began at Wake Forest University School of Law last year when several veteran law students recognized a need at the law school for an organization dedicated to addressing veterans’ issues.  The initial concept was for a group of students that could work with the local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts to help enroll veterans into the VA medical system.  However, from this humble beginning, the purpose and goals of VALOR grew exponentially as students, faculty, and staff jumped at the opportunity to help with what they felt was a worthy cause.  Today, the organization hosts roughly 50 student members, many of whom are veterans themselves. 

VALOR’s most recent event was the product of true goodwill, inspiration, and a desire to give back to the community.  Professor Beth Hopkins, the law school’s director of outreach, and Robin Jones, from the United States Tennis Association, developed the concept for a day-long event where veterans could come to Wake Forest to participate in legal clinics, enjoy lunch, listen to presentations, and watch tennis matches.  The hope was that these veterans would have an enjoyable experience, while being able to take advantage of free, easy access to legal information.

Throughout the morning, VALOR provided workshops for wills and powers of attorney, rights upon police encounters, and landlord/tenant issues.  Each workshop was run by student volunteers with attorney oversight. The students provided general legal information and the attorneys were available to answer any specific questions that the audience may have had.  A fourth workshop was provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs Justice Outreach Program, which focused on criminal justice issues specific to veterans.

Additionally, three local attorneys volunteered their time to meet individually with five of the veterans who wanted to draft or revise their wills.  The attorneys had student volunteers who recorded all the information and will draft the document, then send it to the attorney for review and actual distribution to the veteran.  Finally, tables were set up for veterans to receive information from the United Way regarding housing for the homeless, from the N.C. and U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs regarding State and Federal benefits, and from a National Service Officer regarding V.A. benefits claims and appeals.  

Following the workshops, the veterans and volunteers were transported to the indoor tennis center for lunch, which was graciously donated by Butch Wheeler, a local Vietnam Veteran.  After lunch, Army Major Gen. Gill Beck recognized Staff Sergeant Duncan and Master Sergeant Soloman, two local wounded warriors, with a certificate and Commander’s Coin.  Finally, the veterans were all invited to watch the tennis match between Wake Forest and Virginia Commonwealth.  

VALOR hopes that this event, as well as its future events, will remind the community of its ongoing obligation to help support these men and women veterans, and to continue giving back to those who were willing to give all.  Additionally, the VALOR team would like to thank supervising attorneys Steve Garland, Jonathan Kreider, Brad Woods, John Banaghan, and Casy Matususzak for donating their time and expertise in service to the veterans legal clinic.