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Many of the more than 23 million veterans in the United States encounter serious problems when they return to civilian life. These can include unemployment, chronic health complications, civil lawsuits, bankruptcy, catching up with university courses, benefits and medical issues. Most of these veterans would benefit from having legal assistance in these matters but either cannot find it or simply do not seek it.
The American Bar Association has maintained a long-standing commitment to assist with the legal needs of service members, which include securing medical care, disability benefits, reemployment, consumer needs, housing, criminal justice issues and family law matters.
At the ABA Annual Meeting in Boston, the Section of Labor and Employment Law will host a session called “Legal Challenges for Returning Service Members,” from 10:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 7 in Room 103 at the Hynes Center. The seminar, moderated by George R. Wood of Littler Mendelson P.C., in Minneapolis, will look at issues such as laws that protect service members and their families, and the rights and obligations of those who interact with veterans (employers, creditors, etc.).
The speakers on the panel are Kenneth R. Harrison, Sr. of Sugarman & Susskind, PA, in Miami; David M. Jaffe of CVS Caremark in Woonsocket, R.I.; William “Kenan” Torrans of the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C.; and Captain Samuel F. Wright of the Service Members Law Center in Washington, D.C.
The association has created a host of programs, projects, initiatives and services to aid veterans. The ABA Military Pro Bono Project and ABA Home Front provide legal resources for military families. The ABA Coordinating Committee on Veterans Benefits and Services pulls together all of the resources mentioned plus additional military-related activities throughout the ABA. In coordination with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the ABA has launched the Veterans’ Claims Assistance Network to provide unrepresented veterans with pending disability benefits claims the opportunity to work with lawyers at no cost. The lawyers will help veterans complete their claims packages for expedited review by Veterans Affairs.
ABA continues to look for ways to assist veterans with their legal needs. According to government studies, four of the top unmet needs of homeless veterans involve legal assistance for: eviction/foreclosure prevention, child support issues, outstanding warrants/fines and restoring a driver’s license. Other top unmet needs often have a legal component: family reconciliation assistance, credit counseling and government benefits.