Law school clinic awarded $108,000 grant, hosts Veterans Week events

November 13, 2015

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF) awarded the Texas A&M Research Foundation and the Texas A&M University School of Law Family Law and Benefits Clinic a $108,000 grant to provide legal aid services for Texas veterans.

Hughart_Charlotte1Prof. Charlotte Hughart, Director of the Family Law and Benefits Clinic

Professor Charlotte Hughart, Director of the Family Law and Benefits Clinic, who submitted the grant application, said the TAJF grant gives the clinic the opportunity to expand their services to low-income veterans by hiring another Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) certified supervising attorney to contribute to the Veterans Project.

The Veterans Project at Texas A&M University School of Law is aimed to help veterans with family law, ​Social ​Security disability, benefits from the VA, upgrades in discharge, and more. There is currently only one VA certified attorney at the clinic to perform these actions.

With over 100 VA certified attorneys in Dallas County and just 37 in Tarrant County, Hughart saw a “real need to serve the veterans.” According to the VA, Tarrant County is among the top three counties with the highest veteran populations in the state, with 119,000 to 215,000 veterans. Texas has the second-highest population of veterans in the nation.

Veterans have higher rates of homelessness, poverty, disability and divorce than the general population, according to various studies.

Gary Owens & Karon RowdenKaron Rowden (right), Family Law and Benefits Clinic attorney, introduces Lt. Col. (ret.) Gary Owens (left), a Veterans Week guest speaker.

“We hope to help break the cycle of homelessness by providing veterans with legal services aimed at eliminating barriers to employment or obtaining benefits that will help a veteran obtain his or her own housing,” said Karon Rowden, clinic attorney.

Rowden said they want to reach out to veterans with a “holistic” approach to their legal problems.

Hughart said the interview process for the new attorney is in process and hoping to conclude this week. She received about 25 applications, and more are coming in. She said it’s been a long, busy process, but it’s worth it, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the grant.

“We feel that Tarrant County is underserved,” Hughart said. “It’s also a great opportunity for our students to learn to practice law before they graduate, and help low-income veterans.”

Veterans Week Activities

USMC birthday cake and Judge Brent CarrSSgt. Chase Sims, USMC, presents Judge Brent Carr, Tarrant County Veterans Court Diversion Program, a piece of U.S. Marine Corps birthday cake.

Rowden, along with Texas A&M University School of Law Military & Veteran Law Society student organization and TAJF, sponsored an informative and service-oriented schedule of activities at the Law School for Veterans Week. Throughout the week, students heard from a variety of speakers on the military justice system and legal issues impacting veterans and current service members.

Topics included special court programs, employment mediation, domestic violence in the military, benefits and military divorce family law. A special presentation and cake celebrated the U.S. Marine Corps 240th birthday. See the full line-up of events below.

With a focus on service and giving back to those who served, students also donated and assembled care packages for homeless veterans. In addition, students, faculty and staff volunteered at a homeless veterans clinic co-sponsored by the Veterans Project with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, Tarrant County Bar Association’s Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans and Catholic Charities.

Brig Gen Dunn with Career Services staffTCBA Membership Luncheon, Nov. 10.
L-R: Prof. Charlotte Hughart, Kristi Kaiser Trail '00, Office of Career Services Assistant Dean Arturo Errisuriz, Natalia Cashen, 2L Hans Wiedel, Katharine ​Adams, Brigadier General (ret.) Malinda Dunn, Zinzi Bonilla and Prof. Judge Joe Spurlock II '60. Dunn, Wiedel and Spurlock are U.S. Army veterans and all have been awarded the Bronze Star Medal.

The Office of Career Services presented Brigadier General Malinda E. Dunn, U.S. Army (Ret.), as the guest speaker for the November Tarrant County Bar Association (TCBA) Membership Luncheon. Dunn, Executive Director of the American Inns of Court Foundation, served for more than 28 years in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Texas A&M Law current and former students and faculty, along with the staff of the Office of Career Services, attend the networking luncheon, co-sponsored by TCBA and Tarrant County Young Lawyers Association. Dunn also met with Cadets in College Station to discuss military leadership and opportunities in the JAG corps.

Hughart said educating students on the military justice system can be a great way for them to gain interest.

Veterans Week Event Calendar

  • Monday, Nov. 9
    • Judge Brent Carr, Criminal Court #9, Tarrant County Veterans Court Diversion Program
    • Major Christian Pappas, U.S. Marine Corps JAG, special U.S. Marine Corps 240th birthday presentation
  • Tuesday, Nov. 10
    • Lt. Col. Gary Owens, U.S. Army (Ret.), Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Program Support Specialist, Employment mediation for the Guard and Reserve
    • TCBA Membership Luncheon with Brigadier General Malinda E. Dunn, U.S. Army (Ret.)
  • Wednesday, Nov. 11
    Homeless vet care packagesTexas A&M Law students assemble care packages for homeless veterans.
    • Capt. Brian Walker, U.S. Air Force Reserve JAG, veterans compensation and veterans benefits
    • Homeless veterans care package student project
    • Veterans Project homeless veterans clinic co-sponsored by Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, TCBA’s Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans and Catholic Charities
  • Thursday, Nov. 12
    • Lt. Lauren Hugel, U.S. Navy, Staff Judge Advocate, NAS Fort Worth, sexual assault trauma & domestic violence in the military and the role of the JAG officer
  • Friday, Nov. 13
    • Carole Cross, military family law attorney at the Law Office of Carole Cross and ABA Operation Standby volunteer, handling military divorces
Capt. Walker and TAMU Law student armed forces membersCapt. Brian Walker. USAFR (left), Veterans Week guest speaker, with Texas A&M Law student veterans.

- Article by Jennifer Nassar, Communications Specialist, Texas A&M University School of Law