Legal services available for veterans: Ouisa Davis
Next week we will celebrate Veterans Day. This is the day we honor all veterans of military service, including those who have died of non-combat related causes.
As the daughter, sister, and friend of Army veterans, I have watched soldiers transition from military to civilian life and recognized the many challenges and gaps in veteran services. Today, our nation includes a large community of service members and veterans who have dedicated their talents over the decades, from World War II to current conflicts around the world.
Each generation of soldiers, airmen and women, sailors and Marines transitions from military service to civilian life under different circumstances. What are their challenges? What are their concerns? How can we, as a community, stand together and support them?
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Service members and veterans face a myriad of legal issues. Laws differ from state to state and have many implications for military families. Recent military and veterans are unaware of legal aid resources available in the community. Disabled veterans find themselves in a new and different world when they leave the service and return to civilian life with injuries and mental health issues. Legal issues range from family law and disability law to consumer protection and landlord and tenant disputes and interacting with the criminal justice system.
The Fort Bliss Staff Judge Advocate and Civilian Legal Support Office works with veterans service organizations and El Paso attorneys to help veterans and active duty service members who need a juridical help. But it is necessary to establish a link between the military and the community as a whole.
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The Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project provides services to address civil rights and legal issues for veterans and military personnel. Focused on disability issues, the project’s veterans rights program provides representation, education, and advocacy for veterans facing disability, criminal prosecution, and imprisonment. This El Paso branch of the Texas Civil Rights Project was established by Jim Harrington, a Texas civil rights hero, to address legal issues in the frontier region and provide legal resources for veterans, service members and their families. .
El Paso has a specialized court handling criminal cases involving veterans and active duty military personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, or other mental illnesses and disorders. Veterans Court provides an answer to veterans and service members accused of crimes. This team of professionals works with Fort Bliss, creating closer collaboration between the criminal justice system, the military, and the Department of Veterans Affairs and providing enhanced services to address misdemeanor and felony issues.
The El Paso Bar Association’s Lawyers for Patriots Project hosts biannual legal aid fairs to connect military service members and veterans and their families with local attorneys and legal aid agencies to meet their specialized legal needs.
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Over the years, hundreds of people have received advice and brief legal services through these fairs. Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, the Texas Attorney General, the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office, the Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project, and local attorneys provide free legal consultation in various areas of law. Representatives from the Veterans Business Association, NAACP Veterans Affairs, USA Cares and other local agencies also participate.
The Veterans Day Legal Aid Fair is scheduled for Saturday at the El Paso Community College Valle Verde Campus Cafeteria in Building C. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., free legal advice will be offered by volunteer attorneys to veterans, active duty members and their families.
This coordinated effort of local judges, the El Paso Bar Association, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, the Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project, Fort Bliss JAGC, and veterans organizations meets the legal needs of service members and veterans and offers support, resilience building and solidarity. to these vulnerable members of our community.
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Ouisa D. Davis is an attorney in El Paso. She can be reached at [email protected]