Miami Law's Health Rights Clinic was recently awarded a challenge grant from the Equal Justice Works-AmeriCorps to fund two legal fellows who will provide legal services to veterans. The grant requires the Clinic and the School of Law to raise matching funds for the two positions.
As a groundbreaking, medical-legal partnership with the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, the Health Rights Clinic explores innovative and collaborative ways to educate future lawyers and physicians to deliver quality care to underserved populations. The Health Rights Clinic presently provides legal services on-site to veterans receiving health care at the Miami Veteran Administration Medical Center (VAMC). The services are provided by law students enrolled in the Clinic who are supervised by faculty.
Because of staffing limitations, the Clinic is only able to operate at the Miami VAMC one half day a week during the Law School's academic year. There are presently almost 3,000 veterans in the Miami VAMC homeless program. Over 40,000 veterans are below the means threshold, and over 20,000 report mental health impairments. One in three veterans report unmet legal needs.
Because of its work on behalf of veterans, the Health Rights Clinic was recently awarded two Veteran Legal Corps Fellow positions to allow the Clinic to expand the capacity and scope of the legal services it currently provides veterans, and to concentrate on the needs of homeless veterans. These funds are coming through Equal Justice Works/AmeriCorps and require that Miami Law raise matching funds of $57,000 for the two positions for one year. The Fellows will allow the Clinic to function on a full-time weekly basis, throughout the calendar year, as opposed to the one half day per week during the academic year.
The Fellows will be able to provide direct legal services to numerous additional veterans in the areas of benefits, advance directives, permanency planning, housing and other areas of urgent legal need. The Miami VAMC has offered the necessary office space and facilities for these Fellows, who will be supervised by the experienced faculty in the Health Rights Clinic.
In addition to serving the veteran population, students at the Health Rights Clinic represent clients in Social Security disability hearings before Federal Administrative Law judges and assist clients in obtaining public benefits such has Medicaid, Medicare and food stamps. They also draft wills, living wills, health care surrogacy and guardianships and represent health impaired clients in immigration related matters.