NOVA Awards Top Honor to Veterans Advocate Rick Little
‘Champion of Homeless Veterans’ Accepts Kenneth M. Carpenter Achievement Award
Washington, D.C. – The National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates, Inc. (NOVA) presented its most prestigious honor – the Kenneth M. Carpenter Achievement Award for Excellence – to Rick D. Little, a longtime NOVA member who serves as director of Public Counsel’s Center for Veterans’ Advancement (CVA) and program manager of the CVA/NOVA Pro Bono Advocates Program. NOVA Founding Member Ken Carpenter presented the honor at the organization’s fall conference in Orlando this month.
A champion of homeless veterans, Rick was recognized for his exemplary service on the NOVA Board of Directors (2010-2013), his pivotal role in establishing and leading the CVA/NOVA Pro Bono Advocates Program, and his invaluable assistance with NOVA's litigation against the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) over the years.
In April 2014, Rick was invited to the White House to attend a meeting with First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, former Senator Elizabeth Dole, and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, among others, to discuss the immense challenges faced by homeless veterans and their caregivers. His visit provided opportunity to raise awareness of the CVA/NOVA pro bono partnership in support of the Obama administration’s commitment to end Veteran homelessness by the close of 2015.
While VA reports a 23.49 percent reduction in Veteran homelessness between 2009 and 2013, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that 57,849 veterans are homeless on any given night. Factors contributing to this epidemic include a shortage of affordable housing and livable income, lack of support from family or friends, substance use, and mental health challenges that may develop or worsen after military service, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Under Rick’s leadership and guidance, the CVA/NOVA Pro Bono Advocates Program has provided 1,253 hours of legal assistance free of charge to veterans and their qualified family members since its inception in August 2009. This translates to a labor-value of nearly $250,000. The program has also procured nearly one million dollars in income support for veterans.
“Because of NOVA’s commitment, veterans and their families are finding safety in a new home, reconciling with lost loved ones and are accessing desperately needed income through regained employment and benefits,” Rick wrote in a recent letter to President Barack Obama.
In 2012, the program launched an initiative to encourage NOVA members to provide pro bono assistance to poverty-stricken and/or homeless veterans in any legal matter. In doing so, the program expanded its platform to support veterans in their everyday needs, rather than focusing primarily on claims representation before VA and the appeals court.
“Helping a disabled veteran to obtain a wheelchair, or drafting a will for a veteran are examples of work provided by Program partners. Any legal service or advice provided to indigent veterans that fosters or defends their self-sustainability is pro bono advocacy,” Rick explains.
Currently, more than 40 law firms from across the country participate in the CVA/NOVA Pro Bono Advocates Program, making it one of the largest and most successful pro bono programs in the United States.
Rick Little joined the Public Counsel, the nation’s largest pro bono law firm, in the spring of 2009. Prior to that, he developed and managed the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles' Bill Smith Homeless Veterans Project. Rick is a member of the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims bar, and has nearly 15 years of experience practicing veterans’ law as an accredited, VA claims agent.
The National Organization of Veterans' Advocates is a not for profit educational membership organization incorporated in the District of Columbia in 1993. NOVA is a national organization of attorneys and other qualified members who act as advocates for disabled veterans. Our goal is to provide excellent representation before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, to veterans who have disability claims against the government resulting from their service as members of the armed forces. Offices are at 1425 K St NW, Suite 350, Washington, DC 20005. Phone: (202) 587- 5708, Fax: (202) 587- 5600, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.