CVLC Clients Tell Their Stories
Hear from our clients about the impact legal representation has had on their lives.
We are proud to serve the veterans of Connecticut. Please meet some of the veterans CVLC has helped through the generous contributions of all our donors, sponsors, and supporters.
We work in several issue areas from VA Benefits to Discharge Upgrades to housing cases. Read about the impact of your support!
Disclaimer: CVLC has been given permission to publish stories, names, and images of veteran clients. Story details, names, and images may have been changed to protect client privacy.
Read the Inspiring Stories of Our Clients
Correcting Unjust Military Discharge for Navy Veteran John R.
In 1994, at age 18, John R. joined the Navy. He became a seaman on an aircraft carrier that supported bombing sorties in the Bosnian conflict. John’s superiors commended him for his dependability and for being hard working. But after 2 years, grueling 20-hour shifts supporting constant bombing missions began to take a toll. After witnessing gruesome injuries and a death at sea, John began to suffer from symptoms of PTSD. These symptoms manifested in misconduct. Six months shy of his active service end-date, John was discharged with an Other Than Honorable discharge (OTH).
For the next 12 years, John struggled with his invisible wounds of war—intrusive thoughts, nightmares, hypervigilance, and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness—which caused him to grow apart from his family. He survived on sporadic and meager employment and experienced bouts of homelessness.
In 2010, John committed himself to mental health treatment but was not eligible for VA benefits due to his OTH. Obtaining a discharge upgrade (DU) and gaining access to long-term VA mental health care became an important part of his recovery plan. For more than a decade, John tried unsuccessfully to upgrade his discharge status. “Nothing was moving or happening when I was doing the paperwork on my own,” explained John.
Although the military now better understands PTSD and has officially recognized that many discharges were unjust, very few veterans who independently petition for discharge upgrades are successful. With CVLC in his corner, John finally saw his dream become a reality. On December 22nd, John was notified that the board granted CVLC’s petition and upgraded him to fully honorable. He no longer has the burden and stigma of an OTH, and can now access VA healthcare and disability benefits.
When asked what made this attempt successful, John credits his attorney’s diligence and knowledge of the system. “Having someone push on my behalf was a life-changer. I’ve been working on this for 18 years, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of CVLC. If it weren’t for them, none of the paperwork would have been in and no one would have taken it seriously.”
The obstacles that had prevented John from accomplishing his goals are not unique in the veteran community. He is only one of many veterans with unjust discharges who can benefit from legal advocacy. “It’s unfortunate that not everyone has the help of CVLC,” said John. He wishes for other veterans to find hope—and help—through his success story. “Hope is necessary – we need to shed light and bring hope to the veteran community. I am very pleased with the results and the help I received—help is an understatement when it comes to what CVLC did for me.”
Veteran Marine Mr. R was able to secure housing by working with CVLC pro bono attorney
Veteran Marine Mr. R came to CVLC after receiving an eviction notice due to being behind on his rent. Mr. R is a disabled veteran with three children, who was living on $14,000 annual disability income. His rent was 25% of his income, making it nearly impossible for him to pay unexpected bills.
He fell behind during the holidays, hoping to make it up in January but was served with an eviction notice on January 3rd.
CVLC paired Mr. R with Attorney William Bohonnon, a volunteer from the firm of Halloran and Sage, LLP. Attorney Bohonnon negotiated with the veteran’s landlord, resulting in an agreement that allowed Mr. R to stay in his apartment with a four-month payment plan for the back rent.
Understanding that this additional bill will put Mr. R at risk of falling even further behind, Attorney Bohonnon worked with CVLC to obtain financial support from Columbus House to pay off the arrears. Then, Attorney Bohonnon went the extra mile—above and beyond what was asked or required of him—and had the case formally withdrawn, to ensure this situation did not make it difficult for Mr. R to secure housing in the future.
Legal help gives Veteran Mr. L access to VA Benefits he earned in service
When Mr. L reached out to CVLC, he was more than $90,000 in debt and facing foreclosure. He suffers from schizophrenia that is connected to his time in service, but he was denied disability benefits from the VA.
Mr. L’s team discovered that his financial problems stemmed from his inability to comprehend complex reporting instructions, resulting in payments from Social Security that made him ineligible for his VA pension. After more than a year of work,CVLC managed to get his debt waived and also appealed the VA denial of benefits for his illness. Eventually, the VA awarded him 100% service connection for his disability. During this time, Mr. L’s VA clinicians were critical in keeping Mr. L connected with his legal team and helping Mr. L understand and engage in the process. His psychiatrist tirelessly advocated on his behalf in three separate debt collection actions.
Mr. L is now stable emotionally and financially. He is able to live independently on his increased disability pension and is able to keep his childhood home that means so much to him.
CVLC took care of legal issues so Veteran Mr. K could focus on getting better
When Mr. K first came to see CVLC Executive Director Margaret Middleton, he was in crisis. Mental illness and substance abuse were destroying his life – he had lost his job, separated from his family and become homeless. Pending criminal charges prevented him from returning to his job, and worries about his disintegrating marriage took all of his time and attention. CVLC took on both issues to give Mr. K support while he focused on sobriety and mental health. CVLC represented Mr. K and worked with a state social worker to get his criminal charges dismissed. With his criminal issues resolved, CVLC helped Mr. K legally end his marriage, which was constantly fraught with confrontation, conflict, and accusations. CVLC enlisted a volunteer attorney from Mr. K’s community who protected Mr. K’s interests when Mr. K was too distraught to do so himself. Now, recently divorced and free of a criminal record, Mr. K is getting on with his life. He has moved out of emergency housing and into supportive transitional housing for homeless veterans, and he is thinking about going back to school to become a pastor. Mr. K said, “Most of us are very good at getting ourselves into trouble but not good at getting ourselves out of it, representing ourselves. That’s why we need CVLC.”
Pro bono assistance helps Mr. D. get his security deposit, helping him get secure housing
When Mr. D. first came to CVLC, he had been struggling to secure stable housing and obtain a security deposit for a previous residence. Mr. D, a disabled Air Force veteran, had originally signed a lease to live in North Haven, CT. However, he began to develop serious health problems. At first, he believed he was simply having allergies, but a few months later, he discovered mold in his home. Mr. D documented the mold and later learned that his landlord had known about the mold since before he started to have health problems and failed to notify him. Inspectors found serious mold issues and determined that the apartment was unfit for residence.
Mr. D. had to move several times, struggling to move his belongings and furniture. The veteran had been actively paying his rent. After finally moving out of the property, he requested that his security deposit be returned to help him find new, secure housing. His previous landlord was not returning his calls and Mr. D. ran into a lot of issues.
CVLC matched Mr. D. with Attorney Butcaris. She advocated on his behalf, drafting a better to the Housing Authority to return his security deposit. After a lot of back and forth and bouncing around between people, Attorney Butcaris was finally able to secure his security deposit. In addition, she was even able to negotiate additional funds to compensate Mr. D. for the hardships he faced during this battle to obtain his deposit. Mr. D. was able to move to more stable housing immediately.
For every $1 you give, CVLC returns $20 to veterans in increased income and reduced debt.