November 19, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC -- The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) today announced the launch of StatesideLegal.org, the first national website focused on common legal problems of veterans and military families, and the start of an awareness campaign involving community-based Vet Centers and local legal aid offices.
"Our veterans have defended and protected our most basic freedoms and now it is imperative that we stand up for them. That is why this special effort is so important," LSC Board Chairman John G. Levi said. "We are delighted to be working with the Department of Veterans Affairs to help make local Vet Centers aware of our services and to train those centers about the legal services that are available through our programs."
Chairman Levi's remarks were delivered at a White House event, led by Vice President Biden, announcing initiatives to help middle class and low-income families secure their legal rights. The event was co-hosted by the Department of Justice's Access to Justice Initiative.
Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that nearly 30 million households include a veteran or a member of the military currently serving the nation. Studies suggest that almost half of these households will encounter at least one legal problem each year, and that the percentage of legal problems is much higher for low-income families.
In 2009, LSC awarded Technology Initiative Grants to Pine Tree Legal Assistance in Maine and the Arkansas Legal Services Partnership to develop a website focused on the most common legal needs of low-income veterans and military families. With Pine Tree as the lead organization, material was developed to explain legal and military terms in a straightforward and easy to understand way. Videos and interactive forms also were created to help veterans advocate for themselves. Information on the website covers such topics as disability benefits, employment and legal protections for service members confronted with foreclosure proceedings.
The first phase of the new awareness campaign is underway. LSC and LSC-funded programs have reached out to 51 readjustment counseling centers operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in the mid-Atlantic region, Maine, and Arkansas to share information about legal services and to create appropriate referral systems to minimize veterans' frustration in obtaining advice and representation on civil legal problems.
The Readjustment Counseling Service, known as the Vet Center Program, offers services to veterans who served in combat zones and their spouses and children. Many of these veterans also confront legal problems, such as child custody, employment and homelessness, that are handled by LSC-funded programs.
"We are thrilled to be a part of this new effort with the VA, and we are confident these initiatives will do much to help those who bravely served our nation," Chairman Levi said.
Established in 1974, LSC is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation that receives an annual appropriation from Congress to promote equal access to justice and to provide for high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income individuals and families. About 95 percent of the appropriation is distributed as grants to 136 independent nonprofit legal aid programs across the country.