Update | By Richard L. Tate, Chair, Texas Access to Justice Foundation
In honor of Veteran’s Day, legal aid programs, local bar associations, law schools, and pro bono private lawyers took part in a coordinated effort of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation to serve the civil legal needs of Texas veterans. The first Texas Veterans Legal Aid Week (TvLAW), held Nov. 10-14, provided clinics, workshops, and other events throughout the state to meet the increasing demand of services.
Also during TvLAW, Supreme Court of Texas Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht and Thomas Palladino, executive director of the Texas Veterans Commission, authored an opinion piece carried by several newspapers statewide that highlights the needs of our deserving veterans.
Texas has the second-highest population of veterans in the nation. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ annual survey of homeless and formerly homeless veterans, legal issues account for three of the top 10 unmet needs of homeless veterans.
The Texas Access to Justice Foundation recently awarded more than $426,700 in grants to 11 Texas legal aid providers for civil legal services to low-income veterans. In 2013, TAJF grantees helped more than 8,800 veterans obtain access to the justice system.
With these grants, public interest and pro bono lawyers are able to provide legal representation to veterans with civil legal problems such as:
• Denial of critical medical care
• Problems receiving benefits
• Legal issues related to disabilities
• Family law matters arising from deployment, and
• Other issues that may arise due to a veteran’s absence from home during military service
For the upcoming legislative session, the Supreme Court of Texas has requested, through its budget, $2 million per year ($4 million total) to provide direct legal assistance to veterans and their immediate families as part of the Justice for Veterans Initiative. With this funding, legal aid programs will be able to serve an additional 2,500 – 3,000 veterans a biennium. This support is critical as we work to help veterans achieve economic security, avoid homelessness, and promote stability within their family relationships.