National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships
Medical Legal Partnerships
New developments within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) program for medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) will enable VA to better coordinate care for Veterans nationwide.
On May 3, the Bob Woodruff Foundation and the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership, in coordination with VA, met to brainstorm and strategize about MLPs. Four resources that will assist in expanding medical-legal services to Veterans have been developed and were released to attendees at the meeting.
There are currently 31 MLPs at VA facilities nationwide. Through MLPs, volunteer attorneys train VA health care teams to screen Veterans for unmet legal needs, such as issues related to child custody, elder law, and landlord-tenant disputes. After screening, medical teams can refer Veterans to on-site legal clinics, where attorneys provide them with free legal services for noncriminal cases.
At the May meeting, representatives of Veterans’ advocacy organizations, clinical and legal practitioners from 31 MLPs and leaders from VA and the Department of Health and Human Services discussed how to expand MLPs across VA.
One of the MLP resources that was presented at the meeting is an implementation toolkit that was developed in May. It will soon be distributed to VA medical centers nationwide. The toolkit will offer health care and legal partners a step-by-step guide to starting and sustaining an MLP.
“Our subject matter expertise is useless unless we put it into action, teaching others and helping build new programs to improve the way VA delivers care and to tackle the greatest needs for Veterans,” said Fanita Jackson-Norman of VA’s Medical-Legal Partnership Taskforce and VA’s Transition and Care Management Services.
“VA medical-legal partnerships combine the expertise of VA health care clinicians, who understand Veterans’ health issues, with the knowledge of lawyers who understand the complexities of laws and policies that affect Veterans,” Ms. Jackson-Norman said. “These connections build capacity to foster Veteran whole health, which empowers and equips Veterans to take charge of their health and well-being.”
VHA’s Office of Community Engagement (OCE) facilitates MLPs by connecting VA medical facilities with volunteer attorneys.
“Veterans who are facing legal issues may be too worried about them to fully care for their own health,” said Dr. Tracy Weistreich, acting director of OCE and member of VA’s Medical-Legal Partnership Taskforce. “Helping Veterans resolve noncriminal legal issues gives them the relief to focus on improving their mental and physical well-being.”
MLPs and other OCE-coordinated partnerships support VHA’s commitment to delivering personalized, proactive, patient-driven health care. For more information on MLPs and OCE, please visit https://www.va.gov/HEALTHPARTNERSHIPS/partnerships.asp