Mike Wishnie Reflects on Students’ Advocacy in the Yale Veterans Legal Services Clinic

Mike Wishnie (’95), Counselor to the Dean and William O. Douglas Clinical Professor of Law at Yale Law School, was quoted by CT Insider in a profile of the Yale Law Veterans Legal Services Clinic, which Mike founded in 2010 to address gaps in veterans’ legal assistance (“Yale Law Students Fight to Bring Justice to CT Veterans, Address Gaps in Services,” Feb. 12). “On the whole, the VA and other agencies that serve veterans have for too long behaved in ways in which they’d never had to justify themselves to a court,” Mike said. “They’d never had to justify themselves to real scrutiny of their conduct, and that had led some of the agencies with which veterans deal most frequently to act with impunity.” Current student and incoming Fellow Alexandra Johnson (’24) discussed the clinic’s recent lawsuit against the VA over its refusal to perform and fund gender-confirmation surgeries for transgender veterans. Speaking to the plight of trans veterans forced to seek out-of-network surgeries, Alex noted, “You are going to someone who’s going to be a functional stranger to you in order to access some of the most important care you’ll ever receive.” Citing multiple nationwide class action lawsuits, policy changes and federal legislation signed into law as a result of the students’ work, Mike called it a joy and inspiration to see them tackle systemic issues, find solutions and passionately fight for their clients. “The students’ energy, optimism and refusal to take no for an answer is genuinely inspiring to be around,” he said. “More often than not, the students come up with an out-of-the-box idea that other more seasoned people (say) ‘oh, that’ll never work,’ and then they go make it work,” he said.