Inner City Law Center Fellow: Victoria Bonds
I am a third-year part-time student at Loyola Law School and am a WLALA 2020 Fellow. As a fellow, I interned at Inner City Law Center in their Homeless Veterans Project this summer.
I was interested in this fellowship because of the impact legal services had on my grandfather, who is a veteran. Without the work of nonprofit legal services, he would not have been able to navigate the complexities of receiving his veteran benefits after serving in Vietnam. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to help veterans who are in similar situations through my internship this summer, especially during this time of financial insecurity.
As a WLALA Fellow at Inner City Law Center’s Homeless Veterans Project, I represented unhoused veterans in applying for VA disability benefits and military discharge status upgrades matters. I also researched complex claims barriers, drafted advocacy briefs, and conducted trauma-informed client interviews. If the VA discharges a veteran with a certain discharge status, the veteran may be ineligible for VA benefits. For example, I had a client who was discharged because she was diagnosed with a personality disorder. In reality, the client was a victim of military sexual trauma. Her diagnosis made her ineligible for VA benefits. I wrote a brief explaining that the stressors the military mistook for symptoms of a personality disorder were actually caused by the trauma she experienced and she was thus eligible for VA benefits. Not only have I been able to help extremely deserving clients, but I also greatly improved my research and writing skills throughout the mentorship of the amazing attorneys on the team.
I knew that I wanted to practice in the public interest field, but interning at Inner City Law Center helped me realize that I want to provide a mix of direct services and impact litigation. It is crucial to have client-centered advocacy when fighting issues in the larger legal system. Due to my work this summer, I secured an internship this fall at the ACLU with their Economic Justice Project. I am beyond grateful for the opportunities I gained through the WLALA Fellowship.