June 10, 2021
Contact: Sara Diedrich, 573-882-3243, firstname.lastname@example.org
When Martha Bradley first arrived at the University of Missouri School of Law, she was unsure what area of law she wanted to specialize in. Nothing truly sparked her interest until she began working in the law school’s Veterans Clinic. Bradley always had a deep respect for military veterans; providing legal counsel felt like the perfect way to thank them for their service.
Her dedication paid off earlier in May when Bradley became the first recipient of the Ben Thomas Fellowship, a one-year paid position as paid attorney at the Veterans Clinic. Bradley, who graduated this spring from the Mizzou law school, will now be able to continue the work she started as a student with the Veterans Clinic.
“I don’t think I could have dreamt up a better position for me,” Bradley said. “This fellowship will set the tone for my career.”
In addition to a one-year paid position as an attorney, Bradley will oversee the Tigers for Troops, an outreach program that aims to help veterans in rural Missouri communities receive legal counsel. The program was launched three years ago in partnership with MU Extension.
Bradley’s passion for veterans’ law, along with her hard work, is what made her the perfect fit for this new fellowship.
“She expressed a lot of interest in helping veterans and was an excellent student,” said Brent Filbert, professor of law and clinic supervisor. “It was just a natural fit for her to step into this role.”
The Veterans Clinic offers students a break from traditional instruction, allowing them practical experience as an attorney. Students meet with clients, conduct interviews, draft documents, and interact with other practitioners of veteran’s law.
Since its establishment in 2014, the clinic has aided over 700 veterans, and nearly 110 students have been education in veterans’ law.
Being a part of the clinic’s successes, both with helping veterans and teaching students, has been Filbert’s favorite part of her work in the Veterans Clinic.
“I get the privilege of working with law students who are really smart and motivated,” Filbert said. “I get to see them grow from the beginning of the semester, where they are unsure of themselves, to the end of the semester, where they are supremely confident in their abilities.”
Bradley experienced that confidence each time she submitted a brief for her cases; she was always optimistic her cases would end in her client’s favor. Bradley’s feelings were well-deserved since the clinic has a 100% success rate in discharge upgrade cases and has secured more than $7.2 million in VA disability compensation payments.
The widespread success of the clinic has resulted in a respected reputation both in and out of the areas of veterans’ law.
It was the Veterans Clinic’s hard work and impressive success rate that inspired Thomas, MU law alumna, to donate to the clinic and create a fellowship in his name.
Though Thomas himself does not practice veterans’ law, he recognized the of the clinic as soon as he met Angela Drake, director of the Veterans Clinic, and the first group of law students that worked there. He wanted to provide the resources to develop and enhance their work.
“After meeting Prof Drake and the first group of students in the clinic several years ago, as well as witnessing their enthusiasm and early successes helping Missouri veterans, it was easy to see the clinic was going to be of great value to Missouri veterans, the students and the law school itself,” Thomas said. “As such, it was an easy next step to support and donate to their efforts.”
Both Bradley and Filbert and the rest of the Veterans Clinic staff appreciate Thomas’ generosity.
“We are very grateful to Ben for not only providing the funding, but also recognizing how important this outreach program is,” Filbert said. “The funding is what makes this possible. If we don’t have the extra attorneys, we become overwhelmed and can’t do our job.”
Bradley is also looking forward to helping veterans in rural Missouri through the Tigers for Troops program, which she will lead.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Rural Health, a large percentage of veterans move or return to rural areas following their military career. These areas often have limited access to resources such as proper legal counsel or internet. Through online and in-person events, Tigers for Troops works to bridge the gap for these communities, providing information and resources to help with legal needs.
Some of this work involves appealing for VA healthcare and disability compensation.
Many veterans who apply for disability compensation often receive a denial. Due to lack of resources, the confusing appeals process, or simply not knowing an appeal is possible, these veterans often give up. The Veterans Clinic provides proper legal counsel to veterans, helping them receive the compensation they deserve.
“People were pretty skeptical that we’d be able to reach so many places in Missouri, but we’ve stayed true to our promise,” Bradley said. “The goal is to continue expanding our services, and eventually reach all rural areas of Missouri.”