Our nation’s active military personnel and veterans often face barriers that make it difficult for them to access legal assistance to address personal issues or obtain their rightful benefits. The American Bar Association coordinates legal assistance, provides training and invests in solutions to meet the needs of this important population.
ABA Home Front
ABA Home Front features a national directory of legal programs and organizations that provide in-person consultation and representation for military families. In addition, families can find online resources that address a variety of legal issues they may encounter.
Military Pro Bono Project
The ABA Military Pro Bono Project opens access to free civil legal assistance for military personnel while also extending opportunities for attorneys to provide pro bono services.
The Project accepts case referrals from military attorneys on behalf of junior-enlisted, active duty military personnel and their families and places these cases with pro bono attorneys.
Attorneys volunteering through the Project may assist military families with issues such as family law matters, creditor and consumer issues, foreclosure prevention and landlord-tenant disputes.
Apart from that, the Project connects attorneys who have volunteered their time to receive calls or emails from military attorneys who need state-specific legal information in a specific practice area.
Veterans Legal Services Initiative
The ABA Veterans Legal Services Initiative is working to ensure that veterans have access to justice and receive the legal support they, their families, and their caregivers deserve.
Lawyers are encouraged to organize pro bono activities and to explore the ABA’s many volunteer training resources in support of veterans.
Veterans Treatment Courts
The greater cost-savings is that we’re saving families…one individual at a time.
Steve Binder, Special Advisor, ABA Commission on Homelessness & Poverty
For eight years, ABA’s Commission on Homelessness and Poverty has partnered with the US Department of Veterans Affairs to combat homelessness among veterans.
Among the priorities is replication of Veterans Treatment Courts. Veterans Courts reroute vets from the court system into an environment that addresses their behavioral or chemical health issues along with their criminal charges. Participants receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse along with completing prescribed activities to help them get their lives back on track.
Through the support of the Commission, Veterans Treatment Courts have grown from a couple dozen to more than 350 throughout the country.
Attorneys looking for pro bono opportunities are encouraged to assist with cases in family law, bankruptcy, consumer issues and poverty law issues. Those with military service backgrounds are sought as mentors for veteran court participants.
Numbers to know
- Veteran Homelessness – One third of America’s homeless are veterans; on any given night 67,000 veterans are on the streets. The
majority suffer from substance abuse, mental illness, or co-occurring disorders.
- Veteran Unemployment – The unemployment rate for post 9/11 veterans is 10%, which is higher than the national average.
- Veteran Mental Health Disorders – Since 2004, the number of veterans being treated for mental illness and substance-use disorders has increased 38%. It is estimated that out of the over 2.4 million veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, approximately 460,000 (20%) suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depression.
- Veteran Substance Abuse – One in six post 9/11 veterans, or 345,000, has a substance abuse problem. Prescription drug abuse among U.S. military personnel doubled between 2002 and 2005, and almost tripled over the next three years.
*Source for these stats is Justice for Vets, a division of the National Association of Drug Court professionals.
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