Vets Clinic Members Participate in Connecticut “Stand Down”


On Friday, September 22, 2017, students from Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic participated in the 2017 “Stand Down” held by the Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs in Rocky Hill. “Stand Down” is an annual grassroots, community-based event that joins thousands of needy and homeless veterans with hundreds of service organizations who provide essential services and support. The Yale Veterans Legal Services Clinic students provided information to local veterans with less-than-honorable discharges about their rights to obtain a discharge upgrade, a legal process for such veterans to change their discharge status, gain access to benefits, and erase the painful stigma of “bad paper.” The student team also collected veterans' contact information to inform the veterans’ community of future changes to these legal issues.

“Bad paper” can hobble a veteran’s ability to access benefits and obtain employment. Often because of their status, many veterans with less-than-honorable discharges are homeless or otherwise indigent. Others do not realize there is a discharge upgrade process.

“The Stand Down event was an incredible opportunity to reach this population and help veterans understand what can be a daunting application,” says clinic member Derek Mraz ’19. “This was a small step but one that also gave us valuable information about how to structure our efforts to improve outreach and pro se assistance for these veterans going forward.”

The Veterans Legal Service Clinic, established in 2010, has represented Connecticut veterans in litigation before administrative agencies and courts, on benefits, discharge upgrade, immigration, and pardon matters. In addition, students represent local and national organizations in non-litigation matters relating to the legal needs of veterans, including regulatory and legislative reform efforts, media advocacy, strategic planning, and other matters.