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Civil Legal Services for Veterans

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Civil Legal Services for Veterans

legal servicesBased on its annual Community Homelessness Assessment – Local Education and Networking Groups (CHALENG) survey, VHA has determined that the lack of access to legal representation contributes significantly to a Veteran's risk of becoming and remaining homeless.  Each year, the CHALENG survey consistently reveals that many of the top ten unmet needs among homeless Veterans are legal needs.

VA's annual CHALENG survey evaluates the adequacy of its services to the perceived needs of homeless and at-risk Veterans; respondents are homeless and formerly homeless Veterans, as well as VA and community homeless service providers.  Based on the 2017 CHALENG report, Veterans' top 10 reported unmet needs included four that were explicitly legal:  legal assistance for child support issues (ranked #5 for both male and female Veterans), legal assistance to help restore a driver's license (#8 for both male and female Veterans), legal assistance for outstanding warrants/fines (#9 for male Veterans; #10 for female Veterans), and legal assistance to prevent eviction and foreclosure (#10 for male Veterans).  Two additional unmet needs reported by Veterans, for financial guardianship (#6 for male Veterans; #7 for female Veterans) and discharge upgrades (ranked #9 for female Veterans), are often addressed through a legal service provider. 

The consistency of legal issues arising in the CHALENG survey strongly suggests a relationship between Veterans' unmet legal needs and the risk of becoming homeless. The risk of homelessness posed by eviction and foreclosure proceedings is obvious and direct, but other unmet legal needs in the CHALENG top 10 relate to Veterans' homelessness, as well. The inability to obtain a driver's license may render a Veteran unemployable, particularly in communities with few or nonexistent public transportation options.  If employed, a Veteran with unpaid child support obligations may receive wages garnished at a rate that threatens his or her ability to retain housing. Child support arrearages can also lead to arrest warrants, and incarceration, even for a brief period, has been shown to be the most powerful predictor of homelessness among adult men. These legal problems can threaten Veterans' mental and physical health, as well as their housing stability.

Online Tools for Finding Legal Service Providers

Several online resource directories allow users to search for legal service providers in their area with experience and interest in serving Veterans and Servicemembers. 

These two, operated by the American Bar Association and the Legal Services Corporation, cover the entire United States:

VetLex, a joint venture of the ABA and the law firm Jones Day, has a more limited, but growing, geographic reach:

Within LSC's Stateside Legal, there is another tool intended for providers of non-legal services who may identify unmet legal needs in Veterans they serve:

Many VA facilities host on-site legal clinics that serve Veterans at no charge. VA's Office of General Counsel maintains a list of these clinics on its website. Please note that each provider has its own eligibility requirements and capacity limits.

Department of Justice/Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable: Civil Legal Aid Supports Federal Efforts to Help Veterans and Servicemembers

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National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership: Brief: The History, Growth, and Progress of MLPs Serving Veterans

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National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership: VA Medical-Legal Partnership Readiness Guide

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For more information on civil legal services for Veterans contact Sean Clark; Sean.Clark2@va.gov.

External Link Disclaimer: This page contains links that will take you outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs website. VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked websites.

*To search the entire VA.gov site, please use the search bar in the upper right corner of the webpage