Legal Services for Veterans

Posted by on Nov 6, 2018 in Blog, Client Story, Funder, Veterans | Comments Off on Legal Services for Veterans

It’s Veterans Day and we honor veterans and service members in Illinois and across the nation who have served in the military to protect our country, our freedom and our American values. But when the holiday has come and gone, more than half a million veterans remain homeless, and many more face legal problems that they struggle alone to resolve—eviction and foreclosure, custody of their children, child support, and obtaining benefits, among others.

While there is a constitutional guarantee for legal representation in criminal matters, no such right exists for civil legal matters. Therefore, veterans who risked their lives for the safety of our country are left to sort through their complicated legal issues alone if they cannot afford the assistance of a lawyer.

Fortunately, Illinois has stepped up to address this issue. The Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network (IL-AFLAN), a project of the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation which Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation is a part of, seeks to correct this problem. IL-AFLAN provides free legal help to veterans, active duty military and their spouses and dependents across Illinois. The network does so via a telephone hotline. Those who need help can contact 1-855-452-3526 or visit the website, www.ilaflan.org.

One veteran, a current law enforcement officer, saw the IL-AFLAN hotline number in a magazine, and called it for help.  He had physical custody of his eight-year-old daughter, but his ex-wife refused to pay child support or officially change legal custody. He lacked the funds to initiate a lawsuit, but he called the IL-AFLAN hotline, which immediately connected him with a Land of Lincoln attorney. She represented him on a successful motion to modify custody, and he receives support and was able to enroll his daughter in his local elementary school.

Without IL-AFLAN, this veteran may never have gotten connected to an attorney who could assist him with his legal problem. However, not everyone needs an attorney to represent them. The IL-AFLAN hotline is staffed by attorneys who have been able to resolve 65% of calls by providing callers with instructions and advice, as well as help completing forms and documents. When more than a phone call is needed, the caller is referred to an appropriate IL-AFLAN member, like Land of Lincoln.

Since its launch last year, the IL-AFLAN statewide network has provided civil legal services, ranging from brief advice to extended courtroom representation, to over 2,000 veterans and service members. Many of the legal difficulties veterans face are directly tied to economic, family and housing stability. Without access to legal services, these veterans would have had to face life-changing problems alone, potentially with dire consequences. Veterans not only deserve our praise, they deserve legal help when their families, housing, and economic stability are on the line. Any veteran or active duty military member who is facing a civil legal problem at 1-855-452-3526. IL-AFLAN is there for you.

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Clarissa Gaff is the Executive Director of Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation.