By Christina Lee Knauss
Low-income veterans facing financial and legal hurdles will be able to get expanded services from the Veterans Legal Clinic at the University of South Carolina thanks to a recent $225,000 grant from The Boeing Co.
Based at the University of South Carolina School of Law in Columbia, the clinic assists veterans living in South Carolina who are dealing with credit issues and other related financial matters, housing, government benefits, and family law. It was started in 2018 with grants from Boeing and the South Carolina Bar Foundation.
“The collaboration between Boeing and the University of South Carolina School of Law ensures that veterans in South Carolina continue to receive the legal support they need,” said Jaclyn Cherry, professor of law and director of Clinical Legal Education at USC. “Currently, there is no other one-stop resource for veterans to turn to in order to receive legal aid during their time of need.”
The clinic fills an especially important role because South Carolina has one of the largest veteran populations in the nation, data shows. Statistics compiled by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control estimate that about 400,000 veterans live in the state. Of those, nearly 30% are disabled, 6.9% live in poverty, and an estimated 4.4% are unemployed.
A 2020-21 report by the Legal Services Corp. showed that legal assistance is one of the top 10 unmet needs for veterans nationwide. Long deployments can cause financial and housing issues, and veterans are also often without access to legal help for complex issues such as divorce, child support, estate planning, accessing benefits, guardianship and criminal record expungements.
The university’s Veterans Legal Clinic helps to address this need by offering free services to low-income veterans or military families who can’t afford a private lawyer. Since 2018, the Clinic has served more than 70 veterans, either with full representation advice and counsel or referral, according to a news release from the school.
Services provided by the clinic since 2018 have an estimated value of $2 million.
A major goal for the next several years is to expand the clinic’s reach into rural and underserved areas around the state.
The Veteran’s Legal Clinic is located on the third floor of the School of Law at 1525 Senate St. It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Veterans interested in seeking assistance from the clinic should call (803) 777-2278.