The recently released report from the Legal Services Corporation, The Justice Gap: Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-income Americans, includes notable findings regarding the legal needs of veterans. Among them, the report found that 71 percent of households with veterans or other military personnel have experienced a civil legal problem in the past year, with 13 percent reporting legal problems specific to veterans, such as denials of benefits, problems with discharge status, and difficult getting medical care for service-related conditions. In addition, the report found that 1.7 million veterans have family incomes below 125 percent of the federal poverty level.
A new website aims to help bridge the justice gap for veterans by helping them identify issues in their lives for which there may be a legal remedy and then helping them identify the steps they can take to pursue that remedy.
Nicole Bradick, chief strategy officer at CuroLegal, tells me that the site is designed to be used not only by veterans, but also by caseworkers who assist veterans around issues such as housing, family and employment but do not know where to refer them.
A user of the site begins by entering a zip code. The site then prompts the user to answer a series of questions pertaining to their housing situation, their marital status, any issues involving domestic abuse, and their employment situation, including whether they are being paid properly and treated fairly.
Based on the answers, the site then generates a report showing any potential legal issues it identified and how the user can take action to remedy those issues.
In many cases, the Take Action recommendations suggest an agency or organization that the user can contact for help. For each such resource, it also suggests what the user should expect to happen by contacting the resource, as well as how to prepare for a meeting and what to say.
While many of the Take Action resources are not specific to veterans, veteran-focused resources are included where they exist.
Improving legal services for veterans has been a core initiative of this year’s ABA president, Linda Klein. In a statement, Klein said:
Legal Checkup for Veterans is a much-needed tool that offers a necessary first step in solving this important group’s access to justice issues. It provides veterans with free and fast help in identifying their legal needs and clear paths to resolution.
Nicolle Schippers, associate general counsel and legal industry advocate at cosponsor ARAG, said this:
We are thrilled to be part of this collaboration with CuroLegal and the ABA to provide services to veterans, a group of people who have done so much to help America but all too often aren’t given the help they need after they serve. The Legal Checkup tool will allow veterans to better understand the legal issues they are face or may face down the road, and is the first step in providing them the answers and resources they need.
Also contributing their time and expertise to this project were volunteers from Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, Allen Norton & Blue, Sullivan & Tanner, Pine Tree Legal Assistance, and Baker Donelson.
CuroLegal developed the back-end technology that powers this site, Bradick said, and hopes it will be used by other organizations to create legal check-up sites around other issues.