This Veterans Day, as we honor and thank the brave men and women who served in the United States military, the State Bar of Texas is keenly aware that more must be done to serve our veterans.
Texas continues to have one of the nation’s largest veteran populations. Approximately 1.7 million current Texas residents have served in the military, according to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics. We are grateful for their service.
While the national veteran population decreased 17 percent between 2000 and 2015, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports Texas’s veteran population has increased. And, the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics has observed the poverty rate among veterans is slowly rising.
The statistics present a unique set of challenges for Texas — and a call to action. These men and women return from service with complicated health and living issues. No doubt many need the assistance of an attorney to help them navigate benefits and pension claims or to assist in civil or family matters.
In 2010, the State Bar of Texas created Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans, a program that helps guide local bar associations, legal aid organizations, and veterans service providers who hold legal advice clinics throughout the state. Since the project’s launch more than 18,000 veterans have been served by 5,000 or more volunteer attorneys.
At the Dallas Veterans Legal Clinic, local attorneys, paralegals, and staff have counseled thousands and represented hundreds of veterans in need of legal assistance over the past six years. I, Dustin, am the chair of the Dallas Bar Association’s Veterans Outreach Subcommittee, where our primary initiative is to promote the clinic.
We have staved off foreclosure, kept families in their apartments, expunged criminal records, maintained the viability of veteran-owned businesses, drafted wills and trusts for dying veterans, and finalized divorce- and child support orders for Dallas veterans and their families. I can’t overstate the positive impact our attorneys have made in the veterans community and the appreciation that we have received in return.
If you are an attorney working in the Dallas area, please consider helping serve those who have served us by protecting our freedom and the judicial system that we practice within. I promise it will be a rewarding experience.
First, join our Veterans Network by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. An email list will keep you informed of our efforts to support area veterans. Second, please attend a Veterans Legal Clinic — generally held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the first Friday of the month at the Veterans Resource Center, 4900 S. Lancaster Road. As attorneys, our job is to listen to the veteran’s problem and summarize it so the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program can assess the legal issue. Third, please consider representing a veteran. Pick up a will, simple divorce, or landlord dispute and help a veteran in need. These types of cases can be a great learning experience for a young lawyer.
And if you know a veteran who needs legal help, free legal clinics and workshops will be held across the state Nov. 9-13 during what is called “Texas Veterans Legal Aid Week,” a coordinated effort by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation. A full schedule of events can be found at texaslawhelp.org/veterans. Or direct the veteran to dallasvolunteerattorneyprogram.org, texasbar.com/veterans or call the State Bar of Texas at 800-204-2222 ext. 1514 for more information.