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Civil Legal Aid: Who Might Need Assistance & Where to Find It (A Guide for Attorneys & Clients)
You may need civil legal aid to help you resolve situations that adversely impact you and your family. This toolkit may help:
- You to better understand why you might need civil legal aid and prompt you to seek assistance sooner than later.
- An attorney become familiarized with situations requiring civil legal aid.
The White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable identified, and continues to identify, vulnerable and underserved people who benefit from civil legal aid. Several of the federal efforts that civil legal aid supports are helping:
- Protect Consumers
- Keep Americans Working
- Prevent Elder Abuse
- Tribes and Tribal Members
- Prevent Domestic Violence
- People with Criminal Records Make a Successful Reentry
- Veterans and Servicemembers
- Keep Children in School
- People Exit Homelessness and Stay Housed
- People Access Health Care
- Law Enforcement and Promotion of Public Safety
- Americans with Disabilities
- Human Trafficking Victims
- Strengthen Families
External Website: Department of Justice
Free Legal & Medical-Legal Clinics in Department of Veterans Affairs Facilities (Nationwide)
Free legal and medical-legal services are sometimes hosted in Department of Veterans Affairs facilities. The legal services providers are not VA employees.
Please note: Per the VA Office of General Counsel, VA assumes no responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the legal service providers which appear on this list. VA does not endorse or recommend any of these organizations.
External Website: Free Legal Clinics in Department of Veterans Affairs Facilities
LawHelp (Referral for Nationwide Resources)
LawHelp.org was created for people living on low-incomes and the legal organizations that serve them. Services include referrals to local legal aid and public interest law offices, basic information about legal rights, court forms, self-help information, court information, links to social service agencies, and more in your state.
LawHelp.org launched in 2001 with support from the Legal Services Corporation and the Open Society Institute
External Website: LawHelp
Lawyers Serving Warriors® Program (Participating Nationwide Firms)
The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) Lawyers Serving Warriors® (LSW) Program offers pro bono (free) legal help with disability issues to veterans from all eras. Firms participating in ghe LSW Program are listed on their site. Current pro bono initiatives are to assist veterans with the following types of disability claims:
• Representation to service members being processed through the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES)
• Applications for Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC)
• Assistance with VA denials of service-connection for PTSD due to military sexual trauma (MST)
• Applications to the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) for an increase in the military disability rating
External Website: National Veterans Legal Services Program
Legal Assistance for Sexual Assault Survivors
The nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization, Rape, Assault & Incest National Network (RAINN), posts several legal resources for sexual assault survivors and their loved ones. The services vary with some offering referral to needed services, legal assistance information, state law links and victim support. Each organization determines what services they offer and any other service criteria.
External Website: RAINN
Military Pro Bono Project (Active Duty Servicemembers Only)
The American Bar Association (ABA) "Military Pro Bono Project" accepts case referrals from military attorneys on behalf of junior-enlisted, active-duty military personnel and their families with civil legal problems, and it places these cases with pro bono attorneys where the legal assistance is needed.
External Website: American Bar Association "Military Pro Bono Project"
OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (Worldwide)
OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) has represented the United States Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community worldwide since 1993. It is a non-partisan, non-profit (501-c-3), legal services, watchdog and policy organization providing free and direct legal assistance to service members and veterans affected by the: repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, current ban on open authentic transgender service and those currently serving who may experience harassment or discrimination.
External Website: OutServe-SLDN
ABA Military & Veterans Legal Center (National and State)
External Website: American Bar Association Pro Bono Services for Veterans
Protect Our Defenders Legal Services Program (Nationwide/Military Sexual Assault)
Protect Our Defenders Legal Services Program is a network of lawyers and POD staff who assist rape and sexual assault survivors, at no cost, for claims arising from being raped or sexually assaulted while on active duty. Claims include the various forms of retaliation. Attorneys discuss the precise terms of the legal representation and will have you sign a document describing your legal relationship. This site link includes the request form and begins the process to determine if resources are available.
External Website: Protect Our Defenders
Public Counsel's Center for Veterans' Advancement (Southern California)
The Public Counsel's Center for Veterans' Advancement (CVA) provides direct representation, or representation through pro bono partners, to veterans and their families. CVA provides legal representation at both the local and national levels. CVA also manages legal clinics, including one of the largest pro bono advocacy programs in the United States.
CVA meets this core mission through:
- stabilizing the living situation of veterans and their families;
- securing government benefits, including, but not limited to, VA, SSI, General Relief, & medical benefits;
- providing veterans with needed legal representation to overcome the burdens veterans may face in procuring employment, housing, medical care and/or supportive services;
- effecting systemic change within local, state, and governmental agencies in order to overcome or escape homelessness, poverty, or loss of quality of life among veterans;
- providing local and national training in the area of VA adjudication and representation; and
- providing effective legal representation before select state & federal courts, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
External Website: Public Counsel
Stateside Legal (Online Resources Referral)
Stateside Legal is a website is for military members, veterans and their families. It was designed to help individuals find online solutions to common legal problems and if there is a need for legal advice, find someone to help.
On November 19, 2010, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) announced the launch of this site that is hosted by Maine's Pine Tree Legal Assistance. It is the first national website focused on common legal problems of veterans and military families.
External Website: Stateside Legal
Swords to Plowshares (San Francisco CA)
Veterans Administration benefits are not automatic and many veterans are not aware of the benefits. Veterans who did not receive fully honorable discharges may be ineligible for most VA benefits; however, some of the obstacles preventing veterans from being eligible for or receiving the benefits can be removed. The Swords' Legal Team provides attorney representation and consultation to veterans of any era and discharge status. Swords to Plowshares is one of the few organizations in the country that provides free attorney representation in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and military discharge upgrade cases.
External Website: Swords to Plowshares
U.S. Armed Forces Active Duty Legal Services Locator
This locator service searches active duty legal activities offering general legal services within the continental United States.
External Website: U.S. Armed Forces Legal Assistance
Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program (U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims Representation)
The mission of the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program is to offer competent representation to every veteran or survivor who has taken an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, who has a legally credible claim, and who wishes to be represented by counsel.
Specific program qualifying criteria is noted on their web site:
Congress created the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in 1988, and the Court quickly realized that 80% of its appellants were proceeding without legal representation. A proposal for a pro bono program was submitted to and accepted by the Legal Services Corporation from the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans, the National Veterans Legal Services Program and the Paralyzed Veterans of America. In1992, it began its dual mission to provide assistance to unrepresented veterans or their family members who have filed appeals at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Court) and to recruit and train attorneys in the then fledgling field of veterans' law.
External Website: Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program
Veterans Legal Services Initiative (VetLex)
VetLex offers legal services nationwide by linking U.S. veterans, veteran service organizations, and qualified pro bono or “low-bono” attorneys.
External Website: Veterans Legal Services Initiative
National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP)
Excerpt from NVLSP website:
‘In the wake of World War II, the U.S. Congress enacted laws that continue to stand as a solemn promise to every citizen who steps forward to serve our country in military uniform: if you are injured or become permanently disabled due to your military service, the federal government will care for you and your family for the rest of your life. Since the beginning, the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) has worked to ensure that the government delivers to our nation's 22 million veterans and active duty personnel the benefits to which they are entitled because of disabilities resulting from their military service to our country.
We serve these forgotten men and women through:
Lawyers Serving Warriors®
Training and Mentorship
NVLSP attorneys leverage their legal expertise, their advanced advocacy skills, and their extensive knowledge of the workings of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the military service departments on behalf of veterans. Since 1981, NVLSP has helped veterans obtain over five billion dollars in disability benefits that were promised to them for their service to our country.’
External Website: National Veterans Legal Services Program