Stanford’s VLAP: Making an Impact in Veterans’ Lives

One does not have to look far to find startling statistics regarding veterans in the United States and problems plaguing the Veterans Administration (VA). A large concentration of veterans live in the Bay Area, a sizable percentage of which are dealing with untreated mental and physical health issues, homelessness, and unemployment. These issues can often be mitigated through access to the benefits veterans have earned through their military service; however, the processes for applying for benefits and appealing unfavorable decisions are difficult to navigate without the help of a lawyer knowledgeable about the VA benefits system.

To address this need in the large veteran community neighboring Stanford, Vince Mazzurco (SLS ’16 and Marine vet) created the Paul Lomio Veterans Legal Assistance Program in 2014. VLAP is named in honor of the late Paul Lomio, a veteran and SLS’s former Library Director. He was involved in the formation of the Stanford Law Veterans Organization (SLVO) and was an early supporter of VLAP.

Stanford’s VLAP: Making an Impact in Veterans’ Lives 1
Paul Lomio as a 2LT in the U.S. Army. Photo courtesy of Rita Lomio.

Through VLAP’s partnership with the San Francisco-based non-profit Swords to Plowshares (Swords), space provided by the VA, and attorney staffing by local private-practice lawyers, VLAP helps military veterans in the Bay Area access the benefits they are entitled to and get connected with the legal services they are in need of. SLS students participating in VLAP work directly with veterans at bi-monthly clinics held at the VA hospitals in Palo Alto and Menlo Park to assist them in accessing service-connected disability benefits, pensions, VA healthcare, and other veterans’ services.

Stanford’s VLAP: Making an Impact in Veterans’ Lives
VLAP provides free legal services to vets in partnership with Swords to Plowshares.

The city of San Francisco is home to a wide variety of Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and nonprofits like Swords that serve the veteran community in a number of ways, including through providing legal services. However, veterans in the Peninsula and South Bay do not have the same level of access to services as veterans living in the city of San Francisco. It is often difficult or impossible for veterans in the Peninsula and South Bay to travel to San Francisco to access the services available in the city. 67,000 veterans receive care through the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, and many additional veterans reside in the area but are not receiving healthcare because they are currently ineligible or unaware of their eligibility for VA benefits. Before VLAP began last year, no free legal clinics for veterans existed in the Peninsula and South Bay areas.

Through our legal clinics at the Palo Alto and Menlo Park VA Hospitals, we help this local population of veterans access the benefits they are entitled to. Swords reports that every $1 they spend on free legal services for veterans leverages $26 in direct VA benefits. Moreover, according to a 2005 report by the VA Inspector General, the average compensation for a veteran represented by an agent, lawyer, or veterans service officer was 144% higher than for a veteran who does not have representation. Access to benefits can make a huge difference in the quality of life for these veterans, especially those with untreated medical and mental health issues, and without an advocate to help them navigate the complicated web of the VA, many of them will never fully realize the benefits they are entitled to.

Please contact Christina Neitzey ( or Vince Mazzurco ( to learn more about VLAP.