ICLC Fellow Andrea Poma Hernando

September 2020

This summer was filled with confusion, hurt, anger and change, but I was able to hone in on a beacon of light every day when I clocked into work from my living room. During these unprecedented times, it was an incredible privilege to be able to work for an organization that was doing its best to ease some of that pain that I saw my community struggling with. As a WLALA /ICLC Fellow, I worked directly with Veterans, some of whom were people of color and female, fighting for their rights to receive benefits and compensation after serving our country. As a law school student, the skills that I gained this summer were instrumental. However, as a person whose dream has always been to help her community, the knowledge and experience was astonishing.

Throughout this summer I worked with the Vets Team at ICLC. Although my summer was remote, the Vets Team was warm and welcoming. They were the perfect example of how teamwork and unity foster great results. I was able to draft two briefs to submit to the VA, including a discharge upgrade brief, arguing that my client’s singular act of misconduct did not supersede the overall good conduct during his years of service. In addition, I drafted a benefits claim brief, arguing that a client had a service-related injury which prevented him from working and therefore needed compensation to be able to take care of his living expenses. Furthermore, I interviewed multiple clients throughout the summer and drafted sworn testimonies for their own discharge upgrade and benefits claims. The Vets Team at ICLC encouraged me to take the time to get to know our clients and hear their stories because that’s how we obtain the information to zealously advocate for them. This ability to talk to clients who did not always want to open up about their hurtful past and give them an opportunity and the comfort to share their stories, is something I will carry with me throughout the rest of my legal career.

WLALA and ICLC took a chance on me and allowed me not only to advance my legal skills but also granted me an opportunity to bring change in my own special way. As a first generation law school student and college student, I never had the privilege to focus solely on schoolwork or internships. I always had to juggle my education with part time jobs. WLALA gifted me with the opportunity to be able to focus solely on my work at ICLC, resulting in a remarkable summer. I am excited to continue to be a part of WLALA as a student liaison for Loyola, as well as fostering and growing the connections I made on the Vets Team at ICLC.