The Family and Veterans Advocacy Clinic of the Texas A&M University School of Law was recently awarded a $75,000 grant to begin a new program for veterans.

According to clinic director Celestina L. Flores, this program began in July and is supported by a grant from the Texas Veterans Commission Fund for Veterans’ Assistance. The FVA provides grants to organizations serving veterans and their families.

This one-year grant has allowed the clinic staff attorneys, Lynn Rodriguez and Karon Rowden, to provide pro bono legal assistance to veterans who are residents of Ellis, Navarro and Wise counties.

Karon Rowden, a clinic supervisor, has joined forces with clinic supervisor Lynn Rodriguez in assisting veterans with the new program.

"It helps us by providing money for us to actually go out to the rural counties because we have such limited budgets for clinics in the law school. We didn’t really have any travel budget in there so it reimburses us for travel and other expenses that can be related to going out into the rural counties," Rowden said. "Right now, with COVID-19, we’re still trying to work in the county because a lot of veterans are not going to have access to Zoom. So we’re still trying to work out the details int that and still stay social distancing."

Rowden also shared information on the cases she with which she has worked.

"One of my first veterans that came through when we got a grant through Texas Access to Justice Foundation, he had lost his driver’s license because they said he was DUI and he wasn’t. He had a diabetic episode," Rowden said. "I was able to go to JP court and get that taken off where he could now drive. Then he came back and Lynn, our other veteran’s attorney, helped him with some other issues."

According to a news release, the clinic "has started conducting outreach and making adjustments on in-person interviews due to the COVID-19 crisis. Our clinic staff will provide legal assistance to eligible veterans who are at a certain poverty level, in a variety of areas of law, such as family law, (including but not limited to divorce, child custody and support, modification of prior orders, and/or child support enforcements); preparation and drafting of wills and end-of-life documents, transfer on death deeds, powers of attorney and affidavits of heirship; landlord / tenant issues; limited real estate issues; expungements; consumer issues; and Our clinic attorneys have represented countless veterans in numerous cases and are well experienced and trained in these issues."

"They are so thankful. The one veteran that I talked about who I helped right at the first and then Lynn helped him with another matter later on, he was so thankful and he has no money because the veteran’s we’ve helped are poor, Rowden said. "But he sent us $250 to go towards our litigation fund to help other people. That’s how thankful he was. We often receive thank you notes from veterans after we’ve helped them.

"We’re really hoping that by helping some of the veterans, especially ones that might be on the border of homelessness and if they get their legal issues taken care of, maybe that can help them avoid homelessness," Rowden added. "That’s how we kind of started our grant in the first place. With Texas Access to Justice we try to take a holistic view and solve as many of their legal problems as we can. To help them get a fresh start and to maybe help prevent them from falling into homelessness."

Veterans may apply for assistance by contacting the office at (817) 212-4123.