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In yesterday’s post, I highlighted the work our Fellows are doing to address the health needs of underserved veterans — and promised future updates. Here’s one: 2008-2009 Baltimore Schweitzer Fellow Noah Isseman, a student at the University of Maryland School of Law whose Schweitzer project addresses the mental health needs of homeless veterans, is the subject of a terrific new article in the Maryland Daily Record:

… Veterans made up 40 percent of Maryland’s homeless population of 9,600 in 2007, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. That was well above the national average of 23 percent.

Enter HPRP’s Veterans’ Benefits Project, launched last year with the help of the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland Inc. and now partnered with University of Maryland law school and the Maryland State Bar Association’s Military Law Committee. The program trains lawyers in the benefits process, and in turn the lawyers agree to help at least one veteran with the claims process.

The program has received grant money this year from the American Bar Association to establish the Maryland Emeritus Attorney Veterans Initiative to recruit retired lawyers.

It also received funding last year when Isserman, the Maryland law student, was granted a Baltimore Albert Schweitzer Fellowship to assess the mental health needs of homeless veterans through HPRP.

The Schweitzer program annually sponsors graduate students across the country to carry out public health initiatives. Isserman helped organize the inaugural Veterans’ Legal Assistance Conference at the University of Maryland law school last month through the fellowship.

Isserman has [an] idea in creating a holistic veterans’ clinic in Baltimore using the combined forces of the VA and the University of Maryland, Baltimore schools.

The law school could help with benefits and family law issues, the nursing school with wellness and the school of social work with housing and domestic problems, combined with medical care at both institutions’ hospitals.

“Just get everybody to provide what they do best so the vets can get what they need,” he said. “I think it would be good training for the students as well as a good place for vets to go to get resources.”

Isserman will be working this fall as a staffer on the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in addition to taking classes. The committee, he said, will be looking at how to streamline the benefits program process.

His schedule will keep him busy, but Isserman remembers why he decided to become a lawyer — because he felt it would be the most effective way to help the veterans he interviewed at the VA hospital.

“Veterans served our country; they were willing to put their neck on the line to make sure we’re safe,” he said. “Whether you agree with the government’s policy or not, the soldiers are doing something that is rather dangerous so we don’t have to do it.”

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