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Friday, December 8 • 10:30am - 12:00pm
Less Than Honorable: The Legal Aid Response to the Military Discharge Crisis

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We are in the midst of the longest period of war in our nation's history. Many of the men and women who volunteer to bear the brunt of this burden do so for the robust benefits they earn through their service. However, a veteran's access to benefits such as VA healthcare and the GI Bill depends upon how his or her exit from the military was characterized by the Department of Defense (DOD). More than 300,000 post-9/11 veterans were assigned a less than honorable discharge -- a rate higher than any previous generation. Racial minorities, sexual assault survivors, LGBTQ veterans, and service members with mental health disabilities are disproportionately less than honorably discharged. Without expert legal help, few veterans prevail in their Discharge Upgrade (DU) applications and remain stripped of the benefits they earned. Swords to Plowshares and Connecticut Veterans Legal Center are working to meet the needs of both the veterans and the legal aid and pro bono communities searching for ways to help. Presenters will discuss why this issue affects our clients and how social justice organizations can address it in their communities. Learn about the most recent advances in the field, what resources exist for new programs, and best practices for new practices, including identifying and screening veterans. The program will conclude with a look into the future of this practice and the status of law reform efforts, including a new joint effort by Swords and CVLC and funded by the Bob Woodruff Foundation, to increase and improve capacity to address less than honorable discharges.


Samuel Holmes

Charitable Investments Program Officer, Bob Woodruff Foundation
Samuel Holmes joined the Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF) as a charitable investments program officer in June 2016. Before joining the foundation as a full-time employee, Samuel worked as an intern on the Charitable Investments team. His time spent as a BWF intern, coupled with his experience... Read More →

Margaret Kuzma

Staff Attorney & Bob Woodruff Discharge Upgrade Advocacy Project Fellow, Connecticut Veterans Legal Center
Margaret Kuzma is a staff attorney and the Bob Woodruff Discharge Upgrade Advocacy Project Fellow at Connecticut Veterans Legal Center. Through the Woodruff Foundation, CVLC is partnering with Swords to Plowshares to enhance national legal expertise on discharge upgrades and create... Read More →

RoseMarie Maliekel

Staff Attorney, Swords to Plowshares
RoseMarie Maliekel received her J.D. from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law in 2010 and is a staff attorney at Swords to Plowshares. While at Northwestern, RoseMarie focused her studies on Criminal Defense, Capital Defense, and Trial Advocacy. Upon graduating, RoseMarie... Read More →

Margaret Middleton

Executive Director, National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership
Margaret Middleton co-founded Connecticut Veterans Legal Center in 2009 and serves as its executive director. In 2013, VA recognized CVLC as the first organization in the country to integrate legal services into VA care. Margaret co-taught the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale... Read More →

Friday December 8, 2017 10:30am - 12:00pm EST
Mt. Vernon Square A Meeting Room Level