Mizzou law continuing to help veterans in the face of COVID-19
COLUMBIA - There are many organizations focused on helping veterans, whether it be with health care, housing, or employment. But one thing typically falls by the wayside: legal aid.
COVID-19 has changed the way the Mid-Missouri communities operate.
Organizations can't get a large group together and build a house or host a career fair or even host a large number of veterans at all. But, Mizzou law can still do its part.
The university's law school offers veterans free legal aid through its veterans clinic, with law students helping them with disability claims and discharge upgrades.
Jennifer Boston, a third-year law student, said the clinic does much more.
"I had a case where one man was rated 100% disabled, thanks to the help of the veterans clinic," she said. "But he also wanted a Purple Heart, as he had been injured in an IED explosion. I've been working with him this semester."
Brent Filbert, a professor at the law school, said the experience is invaluable to students.
"They learn about people who serve in the military, because a lot them don't know what that experience is like," he said.
The clinic has been up and running since 2014, and is continuing in the face of the pandemic.
Erik Anthes, a veteran who served three tours in Iraq, said he wants people to know just how valuable the clinic is.
"You can't put any dollar figure on it," he said. "You can't put it into words, honestly."
Anthes said at a point, the students become a huge part of your life.
"One of the law students, just recently commissioned in the air force, is having a baby soon," he said. "One of the things my wife and I did was make sure we sent something for her baby shower."
These experiences are why Anthes said he is glad the clinic is working through COVID-19.
"It's great to see how flexible the country can be," he said.
The faculty and staff were prepared for the new virtual reality.
"Everyone gets up in the morning, we're at work at the normal hour, the only difference is you're sitting in your own home," he said. "Sometimes your pets and your kids may, you know, you have to deal with them a little bit."
Overall, the program has made the needed adjustments during the pandemic, especially another aspect of their work: offering veterans in rural areas a chance to connect with Tigers for Troops.
"We go to the smaller towns and some of these counties that don't really have access to the VAs or sometimes they may not have access to attorneys," Jorrell Kuttenkuler, a second-year law student, said.
The clinic sets up meetings in small towns across Mid-Missouri to meet with veterans. However, faculty and students can't hold their typical meetings anymore.
"What we had to do was transition to all electronic," Kuttenkuler said. "We would reach out to veterans who we knew were expected to come to these meetings."
Through pandemics and just about anything else, faculty and students are working to provide their service to veterans.
"I thank them for their service and they immediately say, no, no, thank you for everything you guys and the clinic have done," Kuttenkuler said. "It's pretty humbling to know we have helped these people who gave so much, that their first response is to immediately thank us."
And the veterans are just as appreciative as the students.
"I wish every veteran had access to this service, right out of the service," Anthes said.