Tom Ryan

How long have you volunteered?

Since about 1983, I think.

Why do you volunteer?

To provide legal services to those who cannot afford the high cost of legal representation and to give back to the profession.

What is your most memorable volunteering experience?

My most memorable volunteering experience was a recent case I had with a mentally challenged individual who had been cared for by a gentleman who recently died. Before he died, he asked his brother to look after his friend. The brother was trying to get the friend on food stamps and on Medicaid. The friend could not get the brother on food stamps and Medicaid so VLP sent him to see me. The friend only had a birth certificate, had no drivers license, no government-issued photo ID, no Social Security card, and no other form of identification. The birthdate on his birth certificate did not match his date of birth in the records of the Social Security System. Therefore, Social Security would not issue him a Social Security card. UAB would not see him without a Medicaid card. Medicaid would not issue the friend a Medicaid card because they would not accept his birth certificate. Social Security would not put the friend on Medicaid without a government-issued ID or a Social Security card. It took us nearly a month to figure a way out of the catch-22 situation the friend was in but we finally did. The friend and the brother were very grateful and I was glad we could help them. This case really opened my eyes how hard it is for poor and disadvantaged people to navigate the public benefits programs in our country.

What advice can you give attorneys thinking about volunteering with the MCVLP?

Please volunteer. Many people, and nearly all poor people, cannot afford our fees. The legal needs of a vast number of people in our community are not being met. They need our help. You will be challenged by their legal problems and will be gratified at your successes. Won’t you please help?