Legal Assistance

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION

Occasionally the need arises for special legal services for military service members and veterans. Since we have received more than one call over this subject, we will begin maintaining a listing of pro bono legal service providers. This is a project in development. As more local resources are found, we will list them, but currently we must look into other close-by regions which have done a better job in developing their legal outreach.

Be it known, we will not list attorneys or legal firms seeking your business for commercial purposes. We endorse no one.

VA OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

Small strides have been made by the VA since its VA “Vet Law 2014” forum in April of 2014.  The forum was for law schools and legal organizations that provide free legal help to  military veterans, but it tended to focus on those organizations that assist homeless veterans and those at risk of becoming homeless.  The range of veterans issues are quite broad and typically lie around legal assistance for eviction and foreclosure prevention; child support issues; outstanding warrants and fines; accessing public benefits; guardianship; clearing up bad credit; expunging criminal records; family law matters, such as child support, child custody and divorce; compensation claims appeals and appeals revolving around military discharges.  In addition, nothing formally has been seen of this effort that did not exist before.

Since 2011, some VA medical facilities have housed legal service clinics (sic).  None are known to exist in Pennsylvania.

Veterans Justice Outreach Specialists exist, but do not confuse them as being legal assistance representatives.  According the to the VA, the purpose of the Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) Program is to avoid the unnecessary criminalization of mental illness and extended incarceration among Veterans by ensuring that eligible justice-involved Veterans have timely access to VHA services as clinically indicated. Veterans Justice Outreach Specialists are responsible for direct outreach, assessment, and case management for justice-involved Veterans in local courts and jails, and liaison with local justice system partners.  The program is also heavily tied to the VA’s homeless veterans program.

The guidance given by the Office of the General Counsel is if you need legal assistance, you may contact one of the listed legal service clinics, visit www.statesidelegal.org (though it does not endorse the site or organization) or contact your local VJO Specialist who may know of community resources for legal assistance.  That does not seem to be happening locally in the Lehigh Valley at this time.

In other words, VA legal assistance and guidance is limited.

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NATIONAL RESOURCES

Organization/Program:  Center for Veterans Advancement — a Public Counsel Law Center initiative
Website:   http://www.publiccounsel.org/practice_areas/center_for_veterans_advancement
Purpose:  Provides legal representation to veterans and their families at both the local and national levels.

Organization/Program:  Military Pro Bono Project — an ABA initiative
Website:   http://www.militaryprobono.org/
Purpose:  Accepts case referrals from military attorneys on behalf of junior-enlisted, active-duty military personnel and their families with civil legal problems, and it places these cases with pro bono attorneys where the legal assistance is needed. The Project is also the platform for Operation Stand-By, through which military attorneys may seek attorney-to-attorney advice to further assist their servicemember clients.

Organization/Program:  National Veterans Legal Services Program
Website:  www.nvlsp.org
Phone:      202-265-8305
Email:       info@nvlsp.org
Purpose:  Dedicated to ensuring that the U.S. government honors its commitment its veterans, generally delves into VA matters, but also has a “Lawyers Serving Warriors” project, which has worked on medical discharge issues and whose current priority is helping veterans with applications for Combat-Related Special Compensation, a Department of Defense administered program.

Organization/Program:  StatesideLegal
Website:  http://Statesidelegal.org
Purpose:  Find your own solutions to common legal problems, and find someone to help you, if you  need legal advice

Organization/Program:  The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program — a joint program
Website:  www.vetsprobono.org
Purpose:  Provides pro bono attorneys to financially qualified veterans with meritorious claims when their benefits appeals reach the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. In addition, it trains volunteer attorneys as well as supports them with mentors and materials once they accept a case. These four organizations comprise the consortium: The American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans, the National Veterans Legal Services Program, and the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Organization/Program:  Veterans Legal Resources — an ABA initiative
Website:  http://www.abanow.org/2011/11/veterans-legal-resources/
Purpose: Provides resources designed to assist attorneys and veterans in obtaining medical care, disability benefits, reemployment rights, consumer, housing, criminal and family law matters, and in obtaining legal counsel.

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PENNSYLVANIA RESOURCES

Organization/Program:  Military Assistance Network – Pennsylvania Bar Association
Website:  http://www.pabar.org
Phone:      1-800-932-0311 ext. 2236
Purpose:  Veterans’ legal needs

Organization/Program:  Military Assistance Program – Philadelphia Bar Association
Website:  http://www.philadelphiabar.org/
Phone:      215-238-6388
Purpose:  Veterans’ legal needs

Organization/Program:  Military Affairs Committee – Wilkes-Barre Law & Library Association
Phone:   570-822-6712
Purpose:  Veterans’ legal needs

Organization/Program:  Pennsylvania Bar Association Pro Bono Office
Website:  http://www.pabar.org
Phone:     1- 800-9320311 ext. 2236
Purpose:  arts, civil rights, community development;  consumer debt, credit, bankruptcy; disability, education, elder law; employment; environmental; family and juvenile; health, HIV/AIDS; homelessness, housing, foreclosure; immigration and naturalization; life planning; nonprofit organizations; prisoners; benefits, taxes, veterans legal needs, seniors

Organization/Program:  Homeless Advocacy Project  in Philadelphia
Website:  http://www.homelessadvocacyproject.org/
Phone:     215-523-9595
Purpose:  Debt, credit, bankruptcy issues; health, homelessness, housing; public benefits, child custody, support, visitation, divorce; records, trusts and estates

Organization/Program:  Veterans Project – Pennsylvania Health Law Project
Website:  http://www.phlp.org/
Phone:     1-800-274-3258
Purpose:  Advises and represents low-income veterans having problems accessing care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. More generally, PHLP an expert and consultant on access to health care for low-income consumers, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.

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LEHIGH VALLEY

None specifically tackling veterans issues have been identified at this time.

Organization/Program:  North Penn Legal Services
Website:  http://www.northpennlegal.org/get-help
Phone:      1-877-953-4250
Purpose:  Provides free civil legal services to low income families in Northeast Pennsylvania. Determines your eligibility based on: the specifics of your case or legal needs, your household income, and where you live (not all services are available in all counties)

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Original Source: ABA Commission on Homelessness & Poverty
Modified, adapted and updated by LVMAC

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Last Updated: 3 October 2016 (North Penn Legal Services added)

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