Veterans and Legal Aid
In 2015, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) conducted a survey to identify and prioritize the top unmet needs of homeless veterans. The results were surprising. On average, the things veterans needed the most weren’t food or medical treatment—rather, it was legal assistance.
The Need for Veterans’ Legal Aid
Veterans who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness often find themselves facing an impossible paradox. Many of the issues that contribute to poverty, housing instability, and homelessness among veterans could be solved with the help of a lawyer, but for individuals who are already struggling financially, hiring legal aid is often out of the question.
Consider the following list of issues that commonly contribute to (and perpetuate) homelessness among veterans, all of which often require legal help:
- VA or government benefits, including disability, housing, and pension benefits
- Housing problems, including foreclosure, unsafe housing, reasonable accommodation modifications, or eviction
- Family matters, including child support and custody issues
- Financial difficulties, including debt, bankruptcy, or identity theft
- Employment difficulties, including employer discrimination or unemployment compensation
Legal Aid for Veterans Can Have a Big Impact
For some veterans, legal aid has the power to transform their lives. One study observed the outcomes of veterans who were experiencing homelessness, mental illness, or both, and who received aid through medical-legal partnerships. The researchers found that individuals who received more assistance showed greater improvements with regard to both housing and mental health.
What’s more, the average amount of time that it took to resolve each issue was calculated to be just 5.4 hours, which the researchers noted was minimal compared to the time it might have taken a veteran to find another job or housing arrangement.
Fortunately, the necessity of legal aid for homeless individuals is beginning to be recognized, and many organizations and firms are already offering free legal aid for veterans. However, a significant need still remains. National Veterans Homeless Support seeks to eliminate homelessness among veterans in Central Florida and nationwide. NVHS takes a proactive, intervention-based approach to homelessness by meeting homeless veterans where they are and helping them from there. Through programs like Search and Rescue Outreach, NVHS helps homeless veterans get the supplies they need to survive, connects them with support and resources, and helps them transition off the streets and into temporary or permanent housing. If you’re able, consider supporting our mission by donating or signing on as a volunteer.