A Message from the Director

A photo of Angela Drake.

   Angela Drake, Director of the Veterans Clinic

The Clinic is finishing up its fall semester business. Simply put, in our Clinic students help veterans, under supervision, on behalf of a grateful nation. We work very hard in the Clinic – and it’s always a team effort with plenty of ups and downs.

Recently, at the mid-way point in the semester, I had a discouraging day. I was wrestling with yet another nonsensical error in a VA decision, which would only cause our client frustration and despair. VA errors are confounding to our students as well. It takes time to explain the process to both the veteran and the student – and time is precious in the Clinic with its demands and client load. Some days are just hard….

But then, in the middle of the day, our teaching assistant, Shelby Ehrmann, sent out this email about 3L Bailey Alexander and client Aaron:

Good afternoon,

As has been said many times in either Boot Camp, class, or passing through the Clinic- we assist and support real clients with real issues. Bailey Alexander, a student previously in the Clinic who continued to work with her client after her semester was complete, worked tirelessly on a deserving client’s claim. Please see below for the client’s response after the VA awarded compensation to this veteran; all due to Bailey’s efforts. Please send her congratulations for all her hard work on behalf of this veteran.


I’m surprised I was able to keep my emotions in check during our phone call this morning. I’m typing this through tears so forgive any poor grammar. This news honestly makes me feel less forgotten. That might not make sense. I don’t have better words than that. The entire VA process feels cold, detracted, even callus. Especially after walling off my emotions about my time in the service. Knowing that your team was on my side helped so much. I’d call my friend Erik who went through this process years ago. He always told me, “Angela and her team know what they’re doing. Trust them.” I appreciate every ounce of energy you and the clinic put into my case. Please share my heartfelt gratitude with your team. Thank you. Really. This is life changing for the better and serves to humble me. I feel a little more human right now.”

After this email was sent, I received a text from Erik, mentioned in the email. It said:

Aaron has been my friend for nearly 20 years. I have never heard him so happy as he has been since his team called him yesterday with his rating. You are truly changing and saving lives.

I love these messages for many reasons. First, Shelby works independently in our Clinic and with great judgement. We are lucky to have her. Read about her in the next few pages. Second, Bailey was able to see a positive result for Aaron while she was still in Hulston Hall— many students do not learn about how their cases worked out until we call them long after graduation with news.

Third, a very deserving veteran (who happened to be a paratrooper and we all know I love paratroopers) finally received a portion of his benefits. To be sure, we have more work to do for this veteran because VA erred in a portion of its decision. But he is unquestionably better now than when he came to us. Finally, Erik – a longtime friend and former client of the Clinic – helped us help others in our state, bringing our work full circle.

So, I don’t begrudge the hard days. They are a necessary part of a long process for our nation’s veterans. I am extraordinarily fortunate to be able to help these veterans alongside wonderful students, colleagues, and former clients. It’s a pretty good gig.

-Angela Drake, Director of MU’s Veterans Clinic