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American Homefront

Stetson Veterans Law Institute Offers Legal Help, Advocacy

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Bobbie O'Brien

After 10 years of war, the number of veterans is growing and so are their needs. Stetson University's College of Law responded by establishing the Stetson Veterans Law Institute at its Gulfport campus.

It was a long road getting established. The way was led law professor Charlie Rose III, director of Stetson’s Center for Excellence in Advocacy, who is also a retired U.S. Army major.

Four years ago, Rose promised a young Marine that if he would come to Stetson College of Law, he would find a way for the student to help care for other soldiers. The idea of the institute was born.

It is set up to provide veterans legal care as well as help active duty military through the non-profit organization lawyers for warriors. Rose estimates they’ve helped about 100 veterans before the institute’s official opening.

Now that it’s up and running, Rose expects a deluge of veterans seeking assistance.

“What we’re going to do is talk to every person who calls. Don’t know if we can help, but there by God will be somebody who talks to you and that’s the first step in solving a problem is to have someone hear you,” Rose said. “So we’re going to listen. We’re going to help who we can we’re going to be honest with who we can’t help and try to find someone who can help them if we can’t do it.

The Veterans Law Institute is established in a former home across the street from the Gulfport campus. It doesn’t have a direct phone number yet, but Rose says veterans can contact them by sending an email veteranslaw@law.stetson.edu to make an appointment.

Law professor Michael Allen is director of the new institute. He said they have three main missions. In addition to providing veterans and active-duty military legal help, the institute will advocate for policy changes at the congressional level.

“What really makes the institute unique is that we're also going to try to change the lives of the universe of veterans that's what the public policy part of the institute is all about,” Allen said. “It's great to help one veteran at a time, it's even better if what we can do is change the law, change the system.”

The Stetson Veterans Law Institute will also develop programs focused on veterans and military issues to educate attorneys representing veterans.

The Veterans Advocacy Clinic, a component of the institute, will provide representation to veterans seeking government benefits as well as those appealing decisions denying benefits. To make an appointment, email veteranslaw@law.stetson.edu .