ABA Grants Will Help Legal Service Providers Reach More Texas Veterans

Military and veterans

ABA Grants Will Help Legal Service Providers Reach More Texas Veterans

Houston Volunteer Lawyers co-hosted a recruiting event in September to promote its legal services for veterans. The organization received a grant of $ 20,000 from the ABA. Photos provided by the Houston Bar Association.

Earlier this year, the ABA Military and Veterans Legal Center awarded a total of $ 100,000 in grants to three nonprofit organizations that provide legal services to veterans in Texas.

The San Antonio Legal Services Association, Metroplex Military Charitable Trust, and Houston Volunteer Lawyers have received ABA Veterans Legal Assistance Grants, which were established in 2020. Grants are intended for programs that provide legal services. outreach and legal direct to underserved veterans, collaborate with other legal service providers or create and improve referral databases. Each year, up to three organizations can receive ABA veterans legal assistance grants ranging from $ 5,000 to $ 40,000.

“The ABA strengthens pro bono opportunities for our veterans and their families,” ABA President Reginald Turner said in a statement to the ABA Journal. “With these grants, nonprofit legal programs are able to strengthen their efforts and services to further meet the legal needs of underserved veterans within their state and local communities.”

The ABA received funding for the grant program from an anonymous donor due to the efforts of former ABA president Linda Klein, who created the Veterans Legal Services Initiative. As part of its work, the Veterans Legal Services Commission produced educational programs, proposed ABA policy, and developed key partnerships with external entities from 2016 to 2018.

The San Antonio Legal Services Association extends access to services

The San Antonio Legal Services Association received a $ 40,000 grant to help more veterans obtain the benefits they are entitled to after serving in the military.

SALSA provides limited advice to veterans on civil legal matters, including wills, landlord-tenant disputes, and military discharge upgrades, through its weekly Veterans Legal Advice Clinic. In recent years, the nonprofit has also begun to provide extensive representation to veterans by matching them with volunteer practitioners who can handle their overall case.

But SALSA wanted to further expand its assistance to veterans because it is such a specialized area and veterans often struggle with the complex application process, says Sarah Dingivan, the organization’s executive director. For example, for disability benefits, they are required to prove that their medical problem was caused or made worse by their military service.

“You need to know if anyone else has ever made this type of claim and what evidence was required, and it’s so specific to the conflict because the types of injuries are so different,” Dingivan explains. “A lot of veterans try to apply and just get turned down and think this is their last option. But there are many avenues of appeal, and we want to empower veterans not to give up. “

SALSA recently hired a lawyer to lead the development of its new Veterans Benefits Clinic, which will be housed at St. Mary’s University Law School in San Antonio. Veterans who come to the organization with questions about their benefits will be referred to the program and assisted by staff, pro bono legal professionals and law students.

“It’s a really wonderful partnership that we were waiting for behind the scenes, and we just needed enough money to get it going,” said Dingivan. “So the ABA grant allows this wonderful idea that we had to come to fruition. “

SALSA has started taking its first clients and will launch its formal program in January.

Metroplex Military Charitable Trust Brings Clinics to Community

The Metroplex Military Charitable Trust, a Dallas-based non-profit organization that supports military personnel and related charities and volunteer groups, received $ 40,000 from the ABA Military and Veterans Legal Center.

The grant provides funding to Metroplex Veterans Legal Services, one of its projects that has provided pro bono legal clinics to veterans across Texas since 2013. Joan Gillham, its founder and director, has helped veterans with disability benefits but found there were none. many resources to help them remove legal barriers to employment, such as outstanding tickets or unpaid child support.

“There were a lot of obstacles,” says Gillham. “Local resources are exclusive to certain counties or jurisdictions. Then the next hurdle is income, because if a veteran is 100% disabled and single, they will have “top income” for the majority of other programs.

“So there is a [large number] people who cannot afford or access a lawyer.

MVLS has partnered with the Veterans Resource Center in Dallas to host its first traffic ticket clinic. The nonprofit has since worked with law firms and corporate counsel to house dozens of different mobile legal clinics in Houston and other cities, as well as in less populated areas such as than Killeen and McAllen. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it offered online registration for clients and also hosted virtual clinics to connect Dallas attorneys with veterans in remote areas of the state.

Gillham says the ABA grant will help MVLS continue to provide its services and expand into new places such as El Paso. On November 9, he hosted a virtual clinic for retired El Paso veterans who may be eligible for special combat-related compensation.

“Because we broke through the barrier of virtual clinics before COVID, we are now expanding to even more options and looking at how we can continue to develop them and do things differently,” says Gillham.

Houston Volunteer Lawyers Reinvents Veterans Awareness

A welcome meeting in September was co-hosted by the Houston Bar Association Military and Veterans Committee, Houston Young Lawyers Association, South Texas College of Law Houston and Houston Volunteer Lawyers to recruit lawyers for pro bono legal services.

Houston Volunteer Lawyers will use its $ 20,000 grant to revise its outreach model due to changes related to COVID-19.

As part of its Veterans Legal Initiative, which has served more than 22,000 people since 2008, the nonprofit has held weekly legal clinics at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston. He was also put in touch with veterans who needed help with discharge upgrades, disability compensation and other legal issues at the hospital’s outpatient facilities each month.

“This large number of veterans still flooding our door has been permanently disrupted during COVID,” said Anne Chandler, executive director of HVL, the pro bono legal aid arm of the Houston Bar Association. “As we return to one of the largest veterans hospitals in the country, the funds will help us re-market and find a non-hospital entry approach to identify and serve veterans with a high need for legal services. “

HVL works in partnership with the South Texas College of Law Houston and the Houston Young Lawyers Association to find students and new lawyers who are veterans or who hope to serve veterans. Those who wish to get involved will be assigned a mentor from HVL or HBA and will have the opportunity to provide advice and guidance or extended representation.

Law students and young lawyers will help HVL improve its social media presence and work with the new HBA Military and Veterans Committee to market its services, Chandler said. They held a joint recruiting event on September 9 at a local brewery.

“While we have traditionally asked volunteer lawyers to donate your sweat and blood, take this case and help us, it is new that we have asked a committee to work with us on outreach,” said Chandler.

The ABA grant will also help HVL fund a pilot case transfer system using existing technology shared with the law school as well as a paid internship for a student in the spring or summer.

For more information, visit the ABA Veterans Legal Assistance Grant website.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Do you want to change the life of a veteran thanks to the pro bono? There is a manual for that ”

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