Demonstrating its commitment to veterans across the state, the West Virginia College of Law has expanding its Veterans Assistance Project (VAP) from a practice area within the General Clinic to a stand-alone clinic, the WVU Veterans Advocacy Clinic (VAC), directed by Associate Professor Jennifer Oliva, a graduate of the United States Military Academy and an Army veteran.
There are approximately 170,000 veterans that currently reside in the state of West Virginia, many with acute and unique legal needs related to their military service or return to civilian life. In the VAC, students will have the opportunity to represent West Virginia veterans in litigation before administrative agencies and courts, on benefits, discharge upgrades, employment claims and other civil and criminal matters. In addition, students will represent local and national organizations in non-litigation matters relating to the legal needs of veterans, including regulatory and legislative reform efforts, media advocacy, and strategic planning. Under Professor Oliva’s leadership, the VAC has begun working with terrific partners to develop new projects aimed at expanding legal services to West Virginia veterans. Such works-in-progress include:
- a partnership with national law firm Jones Day to expand the Pittsburgh, PA office’s legal services referral network, VetLex, into West Virginia;
- a partnership with Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program (VCPBP), in which the VAC represents veterans before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) and the VCPBP provides the clinic with client referrals, training, mentoring support and grant opportunities;
- a collaboration with the United States District Court, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the Federal Office of Probation and Parole for the Northern District of West Virginia in which clinic students will represent veterans on CVB matters in federal district court; and
- a collaboration with several of the other WVU School of Law clinics, including the General Practice, Child and Family Advocacy, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Law Clinics, and Innocent Project as well as the United States District Court, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the Federal Office of Probation and Parole for the Northern District of West Virginia in which our clinical students will provide holistic legal services to West Virginia ex-offenders, including ex-offenders who have honorably served our country. The Project aims to assist ex-offenders to successfully navigate the myriad state laws and policies that serve as legal barriers to re-entry in the areas of employment, public housing, public benefits, voting, access to criminal records, expungement, adoptive and foster parenting, and drivers licenses.
Importantly, the Veterans Advocacy Law Clinic will continue to provide legal services to veterans via the WVU Clinical Law Program’s long-standing and innovative cooperative affiliation with the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Clarksburg, WV. This cooperative initiative supports the VA’s new Department of Veterans Affairs Homeless Veterans Legal Referral Process, which is designed to prevent homelessness by connecting eligible veterans with legal services as an alternative to incarceration or other traditional criminal sanctions.
If you are interested in volunteering with the WVU Veterans Advocacy Clinic in any capacity, or know a veteran in need of services, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at your convenience. You can contact the clinic at Jennifer.Oliva@mail.wvu.edu or 304-293-7249.Veterans Advocacy Law Clinic Blog