2019 Veteran Hero Awards
Veteran Service Non-Profit
Organization Veterans Legal Institute
Position Executive Director and Co-Founder
Veterans Legal Institute was established in August 2014 to aid veterans in veteran-specific issues and needs. VLI’s founders have deep roots in the armed forces and who understand the legal limitations clouding a veteran’s ability to adapt into society. Major Antoinette Balta identified a crucial unmet need and created VLI with aspirations to fill that void and provide a crucial service to an underserved community. As one of the very few public interest law firms in the nation, all of the management, staff, pro bono attorneys, and volunteers are veterans, military family members, or passionate veteran advocates. VLI provides pro bono legal services to homeless, disabled, low-income and at-risk veterans to eradicate barriers to housing, employment, education, and health care to foster self-sufficiency. VLI’s enduring goal is to greatly reduce veteran homelessness and suicide. To that end, since its founding and with incredible grassroots supporters, VLI has served over 6,000 veterans and restored over two million dollars in veterans benefits. Consider a particularly moving case of a Vietnam Era veteran who at the time of his service was foreign born. This US Army veteran had begun his life of service in high school serving in the ROTC and then enlisting during wartime. His dream was to serve his country with the hope of surviving the conflict and becoming a naturalized citizen. He endured a year of conflict in forward facing roles. When he it was time for him to be processed out of Vietnam, his records which would help him become a naturalized citizen did not follow him. Never losing hope that his dream of becoming a citizen could come true, this proud hero came to VLI seeking help after decades of trying to achieving naturalization on his own. VLI quickly took his case and matched him to pro bono immigration attorney Richard Wilner, a steadfast veteran advocate who has donated hundreds of hours of exceptional legal care to our local veterans. With Mr. Wilner's help, our local hero, at the 70 years young, was able to achieve his dream of citizenship - filling his heart with pride, honor, and dedication to this wonderful nation he has always called home.