Imagine enlisting to serve your country and then finding out that it denied or delayed providing you with the medical care and benefits to which you were entitled. That’s what happens to far too many veterans.
Helping the Downtrodden
Many veterans struggle with the civil legal issues that often accompany military service. They may be entitled to disability compensation, free or low-cost medical care, and education support, but navigating the system can be challenging. A lawyer or a legal assistance office can help.
Legal clinics help service members and veterans with state civil law matters, including consumer protection, expungements, and family law (uncontested divorces, step-parent adoptions, and name changes).
Other organizations, like the National Veterans Legal Services Program, provide pro bono representation before the Department of Veterans Affairs, training non-lawyer advocates on veterans’ laws and winning techniques.
Mentoring Young Attorneys
Those who serve in the military are not less likely to need legal advice than others, but their service doesn’t necessarily shield them from trouble that may require legal help for vet VA claims. For example, credit problems, identity theft, and other consumer issues can all arise during military service. Many legal assistance offices provide services for these issues, and some nonprofits specialize in such matters.
Many younger lawyers are reluctant to bother their busy mentoring partners with what they perceive as “dumb questions.” Still, a regular monthly lunch can create an environment where these questions are shared and discussed in a safe space. Mentors can then help their mentees understand and navigate these issues and the broader legal landscape. The result is a more comfortable and confident lawyer.
Helping Those Who Cannot Afford
Often, veterans who need legal assistance cannot afford it. This is where a public interest law firm can step in and help.
For example, a service member may need help with consumer issues such as debt, credit, identity theft, and other matters that can arise. At the same time, they are deployed or assigned to a complex station. An attorney can also assist a service member with income tax matters.
In addition, attorneys are critical for helping veterans seek the benefits they deserve from the VA.
Holding Organizations And Government Accountable
Veterans should not have to struggle with legal matters on their own. Attorneys with the expertise, advanced advocacy skills, and knowledge of veterans law can help them navigate complex systems to obtain benefits.
The problem is particularly acute, where the state needs to catch up on how many low-income veterans receive the federal VA benefits they deserve. These benefits include disability compensation and pension programs. When veterans do not have the benefits they deserve, it puts them at a disadvantage and burdens local taxpayers who must step in to make the difference.
New and veteran service members can access pro bono assistance through the ABA Military and Veterans Legal Center website, which includes a directory of resources. The directory is intended to help judges and courts identify the available services when veterans appear in proceedings. The site also invites local court managers to add their resources.