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As our nation’s current armed conflict draws to a close, more American men and women in uniform are coming home. Many of these veterans are facing a wide array of legal issues as they attempt to reclaim their lives.
As part of a longstanding commitment to America’s service members, the American Bar Association stands ready to help provide legal services to veterans at the national, state and local levels. On Feb. 7 at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Chicago, the ABA Coordinating Committee on Veterans Benefits and Services will host “Coordinating Committee on Veterans Benefits and Services Roundtable,” a program that aims to bring ABA entities and outside organizations together to foster collaboration on existing and new legal services programs for veterans.
“The problems faced by low-income and homeless veterans will not cease to exist when our conflicts end,” said Sara Sommarstrom, co-chair of the ABA Coordinating Committee on Veterans Benefits and Services and VetLaw director for the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans. “However, the public attention and desire to address these needs will wane. It is imperative that we have legal support systems in place whether a veteran faces a legal issue within one month of return or, as we see with many of our Vietnam veterans, decades later.”
Friday’s program will include discussion of existing, innovative veterans programs, including the John Marshall Law School’s Veteran Legal Support Center and Clinic, the Chicago Child Support Project and 211 LA County’s self-help legal clinic for veterans and military service members in Los Angeles. In addition, there will be an update on veterans treatment courts — a specialty court model that offers structured intervention, treatment and integrated services for veterans who struggle with the effects of trauma from their military service.
ABA staff members also will lead a discussion on ABA legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of veterans. The program will end with a group discussion about how the ABA can better support efforts to meet the legal needs of veterans.
“Our nation’s longest period of war — 12 years — is winding down. Wounded warriors are returning home in great numbers,” said Paul Freese, co-chair of the ABA Coordinating Committee on Veterans Benefits and Services and vice president of Public Counsel in Los Angeles. “It is incumbent upon our profession to step up and provide support to address the vast and diverse legal needs of these veterans — to facilitate their transition back to the civilian workforce and promote healthy reconnection with their families and communities.”
“Coordinating Committee on Veterans Benefits and Services Roundtable” will take place from 12-2 p.m. on Friday at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. The program is co-sponsored by the ABA Commission on Homelessness and Poverty.