VLI was retained by a Marine veteran and his wife facing an eviction action, a low income couple getting by with help from Section 8 and the Anaheim Housing Authority. The couple have a Yorkshire terrier given to them by Paws 4 Patriots, a non-profit which provides therapy dogs to disabled veterans. For reasons which remain inexplicable, in mid-May the couple’s landlord decided to file a three-day notice to get rid of the dog, alleging it was a violation of the no pets clause in the lease (which in fact it was).
The couple approached Veterans Legal Institute asking for assistance in defending them at their unlawful detainer trial, which was set for the following week. CEO of VLI Dwight Stirling agreed to represent them, writing a letter to the landlord’s attorney with the help of two summer law clerks, laying out the protections for veterans and their service/therapy animals under the law, requesting the couple be allowed to remain in their apartment until the expiration of the lease. The opposing attorney responded gruffly, threatening VLI will a hard time in court.
On the morning of the trial, opposing counsel was nowhere to be seen, sending an “appearance attorney” to handle the matter, an odd development in light of the main attorney’s defiant original response to litigate. After handing the appearance attorney a thorough brief outlining the legal protections, he indicated that the main attorney and the landlord had decided to dismiss the case and allow the veteran, his wife, and their dog, to remain in the apartment indefinitely. Case dismissed and the veteran and his family’s homelessness was prevented!
“I really appreciate the help -- the school only cooperated when I retained VLI.”
- Alex Alexander, U.S. Army
In August 2014, VLI's President and Co-Founder was personally awarded the Community Leadership Award from the Black Chamber of Orange County at its 30th Anniversary Gala! View article here!
In a short time, the VLI has been able to assist a slew of low income veterans and active service members in a variety of areas that has effectively removed barriers to housing, employment, healthcare, education and benefits. Below are just a few examples of stories of clients that the VLI has assisted.
Navy veteran John contacted VLI on the day that he was to be locked out of his apartment by the sheriff for nonpayment of rent. John had defaulted on an unlawful detainer action and was evicted without his knowledge. VLI was able to contact the Landlord’s counsel, effectively negotiate a deal whereby John was able to stay in his home, partake in manageable payment plan, and reduce the amount of fines and fees involved. VLI was able to prevent John’s homelessness as he continues to have possession of his apartment and the belongings inside and is on the track to being up to date on his past rent owed.
Vietnam era veteran Paul has terminal cancer and wanted to prepare his end of life planning documents prior to the deterioration of his health. VLI was able to prepare a detailed advanced health care directive outlining Paul’s wishes so that his family would not be burdened with any hard choices. Further, at Paul’s request, VLI ordered all of his military personnel and medical records so that he would be able to leave behind a nostalgic history for his children and grandchildren. Lastly, given Paul’s serious state, VLI is working with the VA to expedite Paul’s existing Agent Orange compensation claim which has been in process for over 12 months.
Navy combat veteran Jennifer was separated from the military with an 'other-than-honorable' discharge. Her discharge was largely in part to having post traumatic stress from witnessing a series of horrific events during her service, bipolar disorder and clinical depression. Given the length and quality of Jennifer’s service outside of a few events caused by her mental illness, VLI submitted an in-depth brief to the Board of Correction for Naval Records in hopes of upgrading her discharge so that she can access the benefits that she originally enlisted for and no longer suffer the negative stigma of having a less than honorable discharge from the military.
Sally is currently being separated from the military after several years of honorable service. She would like to be medically separated given the multiple issues affecting her health that she developed during her service. While she went through her chain of command, Sally’s separation was mishandled in a variety of ways threatening what should be a proper medical discharge. Given its in-house military experts, VLI was able to assist Sally in drafting an Article 138 memorandum to the military to advocate for her proper discharge.
Edmond is a Vietnam combat veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange and has a 32 year old child, Ellen, born with Cerebral Palsy and other maladies. Edmond came to the VLI less than 2 weeks prior to a Social Security hearing explaining how his entire family had been negatively impacted by unfair policy. He explained that he recently began receiving a “helpless child benefit” from the VA in the amount of approximately $95 per month and this caused Ellen to receive a letter from Social Security stating that she had “unearned income” causing her to be over the income eligibility threshold to receive SSI and causing her to lose her Medi-Cal. VLI accepted the case and was able to zealously advocate on behalf of Ellen and Edmond and argue to the Court that there was a 9th Circuit case on point indicating that veterans benefits, and specifically the helpless child benefit, should not be considered unearned income for the child of the veteran as it related to SSI. VLI also argued that losing her SSI and Medi-Cal created an undue hardship on the client, that Ellen was not the direct recipient of the actual benefit and therefore should not be penalized for it, and that overall taking away Ellen’s benefits is in direct contravention with the legislative intent behind the helpless child benefit. Apart from the effect on SSI and Medi-Cal, Edmond and Ellen both voiced their appreciation and overall good feelings knowing that there were attorneys available to assist them in their time of need.
*Names of clients have been changed to protect identity.