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Surprise Outcome for Veteran

Manuel, a Gulf War-era Navy veteran, initially came to LAFLA for help with his student loans. He owed nearly $40,000; and as a single father on Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, he simply couldn’t afford to make student loan payments.

At LAFLA, we are proud to serve low-income Veterans and their families through our Veterans Justice Center (VJC). We believe that all Veterans deserve a steady source of income, a safe and stable home, and access to the healthcare that they need to thrive. We also believe that Veterans who have tickets, criminal convictions, and less-than-honorable discharges deserve a fresh start.

When Managing Attorney Nicole Perez first met Manuel in 2017, she quickly determined that he was a strong candidate for a total and permanent disability student loan discharge. Next, as VJC does with all its clients, Nicole performed a holistic legal assessment—and discovered that Manuel had five criminal convictions eligible for expungement; and that he was entitled to VA service-connected compensation benefits, for a mental health condition that began in service. Manuel was so surprised: He had no idea that he could qualify for VA Benefits.

A year later, Manuel was beyond grateful to hear that his student loans were discharged and all five of his expungement petitions were granted. A few months later, in early 2019, Manuel was stunned to receive nearly $32,000 in retroactive benefits and a monthly award of more than $3,100 from the VA for his service-connected disability.

“Manuel’s outcome is just one example of the impact our work has in VJC,” said Attorney Mallory Andrews. “It’s rare that a Veteran walks through our door with just one legal issue, and they often don’t even realize it until we perform our assessment. Our goal is to work through all of their legal issues so that they leave in a more stable position overall.”

On Veterans Day 2019, Nicole also participated on a panel with the Legal Services Corporation—to share her expertise on partnering with the private sector to help vulnerable Veterans. LAFLA is a longtime collaborator with many law firms and attorneys, who dedicate their time and expertise to helping those in need.

Watch a recording of the forum on Facebook. (Nicole’s panel, moderated by LSC President Jim Sandman, starts at 15:30.) More photos to come.

Learn more about LAFLA’s work on behalf of Veterans living in poverty and their families.