Community Matters - Legal Services for Veterans

Monica Pierre, WWL Community Matters
Sunday, February 18th

Monica Pierre and her guests from the New Orleans Bar Foundation and the New Orleans Legal Assistance Corporation discuss programs that provide free civil legal services for veterans. 


Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

Good Sunday and welcome to this though they are you so much for joining us today I'm your host Monica here coming up a lot of veterans. In the league rules were. Details on the New Orleans brought foundation for my legal services for veterans of what we can all choose to support. The New Orleans bar foundation is raising money and awareness to help veterans we're joined by Walter Leger president. Of the New Orleans bar foundation to talk about their efforts to raise money and Laura toggle. Southeast Louisiana legal services executive director and the role that they will play in helping veterans through this initiative to help the initiative. Well actually that you always bar foundation which is a part of New Orleans bar association. It has been engaged for several years and raising monies as a viable one C three. Corporation allowing it to take tax. Deductible contributions. To aid those in need legal services a few years ago was determined after a we we are hearing so much about the homeless veterans and veterans in need in. And in trouble and also in the context of the the the the building of a in excess of billion dollar veterans administration hospital decided. That one of the things we could do which would be raised money to assist the southeast Louisiana Legal Services Corp. in providing legal services to veterans. Now what we know is that you know that in the military. In the arms services there's actually knew you've heard it leave no man behind. And of course that nowadays means also leave no woman behind. On the battlefield. And we decided we should also be leaving no veteran behind. And as a result of surveys and studies determining that a lot of veterans particularly recent veterans or partridge. And in the legal sources we thought we could pro. Perhaps as lawyers. From big firms as small farms we can raise money to help provide legal services to veterans. Well as bring in Laura toggle the executive director of southeast Louisiana legal services and we'll talk about organization. A little bit more detail in a minute or so. But what are some of the legal issues that veterans face thank you so much for having me this morning. We see a multitude of legal issues. Before we launched on this and never would be incredible support from the Marlins park foundation and its members. We conducted our own. Assessment of veterans unmet civil legal needs. That we don't do any criminal hours everything we do it is civil in nature. And it. We had already seen studies at the national level that said five of the top unmet needs of veterans. For all have a civil legal remedy that's everything from. VA benefit problems trying to get a discharge upgrade. Which would allow access to a whole gateway of other services like veterans benefits and medical care at the VA hospital and and other things. Child support issues consumer debt issues. Foreclosures and housing issues to this whole array. Of problems that veterans had might have a legal solution. And so our concern was that we weren't doing all we could do as a community. To help veterans at the same time. We were having that concern. Noticed Afghan. And said we share your actors we want this issue. Let us help you out. And raise some funds for use so those are some of the things were saying and then at a local level we surveyed. About 300 that trend that the at the veterans administration hospital last summer right before we really kicked in high gear. And that we found the exact same thing in our own community and our own population. And Walter was the New Orleans bar foundation aware of some of those issues and barriers. Yeah absolutely in fact we've been working with. The bar foundation itself Romanoff bar association's. Been working with Laura and her group in attempting to provide funding for other our programs as well. And as you know in recent years government funding and other methods of assistants have been decreasing. So we thought it was appropriate. From a perspective a professional perspective. As lawyers. Wanting to serve the community and particularly serve communities with with which had particularly knees and couldn't afford lawyers that we step up to the plate. It also became apparent that a lot of lawyers. Were becoming veterans relieving the military service and so there was an increased consciousness. Of of the needs of veterans we all have seen. The homeless. They'll beg for money or street corners many of those at least or advertising that their veterans and in need of assistance so it it became their a very highly. Conscious I think in the legal community in all of us so it was just a matter of what can we do. To assist war we do as lawyers as we provide legal services. The wealthiest. The most powerful corporations and individuals can afford expensive lawyers. But the pork. Have difficult actually us particularly on dated a legal and it's. That type of news that that live or talked about so what can we do. To help veterans and end in Lawrence. I groups stepped to the plate in terms of this what we can do these are our surveys we can help fought. And that's who worked on trying to do raise money to assist. And Laura when you speak to veterans and do the research is it because they aren't aware of what's available loss of their other issues that they don't think that they. Can can can benefit from these issues are these services to its three main things in our community. One is. Even. The ability to get access to an attorney. That. You don't have to pay for either through a staff to model are either pro Bono resources. We are one of three states in the United States that do not provide any state funding Zippo. For civil legal services we barely fund our criminal justice system at home there. Show yes that. But for civil legal services to stay provides no direct funding to the stage. To any simple legal aid organizations. The other big issue is that from the federal level we get about. A little less than half of our budget through an organization called the Legal Services Corp. which gets congressional appropriations. And our funding from that entity has been going down down down. For a long time. For a variety of reasons. Increases in poverty in other parts of the country after Katrina. Still hitting as the since history adjustment. Who would pot when population shift is in. And some cuts. So over the past. I almost ten years since about when he ten. Louisiana has had an almost 40%. Drop in the amount of federal funding etiquette for those services so. Your putting all these things together and you definitely feel the ability. To get out there that I think that the other. Issue really is that a lot of times. Even when there is excess. People don't realize that a problems they're facing may have legal. And why wouldn't need a lawyer helped me. It VA benefits run and I just go to VA and put application and then see what happens star. You know could somebody help me we is possibly losing my home for quite some people just don't understand. That that connection there. And then I think the third thing really is in our community unlike many others. We don't have a special veterans legal clinic at our law schools. We don't have. A military. Ball committee and our state bar association. Think we used to that we don't mini bar and so a lot of or places. That sometimes develop additional resources. We just don't have that and our community and law. Does it because we don't understand that there are some complexity that's involved with servicing veterans. Well to some degree for example or was talking about those from what we have Warren in many of us that minute and most lawyers know very little about. The old particular legal needs of veterans. What we have found them and we have been financing for over a year. The veteran justice fellowship and have had an attorney that it or embedded rather in. The new VA hospital. That you know she has act is spoken hundreds and hundreds of veterans interviewed them spoken to groups spoke with staff and social workers. And it and and basically is conveying to loss the needs of of the veteran legal community if for example. Just for veterans benefits alone in terms of you're in it if the process often takes four to ten years. And that's with the war. And so what we we mean what what we can do now is what we hope to be doing now is those are indeed. Of opinion veterans' benefits we provide them the legal services deuce. Not to be corny but I Daniel Webster. The famous Warner wants that the greatest concern. A man on earth is the seeking justice. And as lawyers we know. That there's something very special to be able to stand before the board just stand before a jury or judge and plead for the rights. And and plea for the cause four person or or company. But that that's where can be provided what we what we what has been under misunderstood and under understood by us lawyers does that. They're veterans have specialties. It in terms of employment they also have similar image to others but to some degree because of their past maybe there's a large amount about. Bush traumatic stress disorder. And and other news veterans of some other difficulties. And interestingly in also I think both of our groups have determined that with the creation of of this magnificent veterans administration hospital. Here in New Orleans. Veterans who become kind of cut commentary your house so we become a place that this can be about it. This program this funding by the New Orleans bar foundation is the only funding of his time in the United States by local bar association. The New Orleans bar association is largest volunteer. More association in Louisiana or go over 3000 members so we have the capacity to raise funds to help. But more portly Horton does art. Shall we gonna talk about raising those funds were joined by Walter Leger president of the New Orleans by foundation. As well as Laura toggle the executive director of southeast Louisiana legal services. And it was gonna put it out there we're not gonna leave any veteran behind the typically when it comes to. Civil services that they need legal services that they need. What's the vision for funding the veterans justice fellowship. Well we raise money. Among members of the bar. We we were worth ruled that you have invited to come speak to us because our thinking is when we ought to reach beyond. Just members of the bar. I know people have been you know there's a group Bastia and group. Which you guys have features here on WWL radio and elsewhere this doing what they can for providing roaming. Homes and otherwise four for back and other solutions for veterans. And and so we're we're we're kind of reaching out to the community to ask. If they can help us foreign. The services. For veterans in terms of what providing legal source. So what does that look like incrementally the amount are how can we help. Beyond saying this is a fantastic idea well for one thing very very directly you can you can go to www. New Orleans bar. Dot org and make contributions there. You can call and all bar association I can give you that number. And and find out you can mail contributions. Will will take those funds tax deductible funds. And that we would transfer them to basically. So obviously sources provide services you know lawyers. We've got to pay him you know if they've got to do something that they've got a reprieve so they can pay their rent. An insult their own lately it's so we've we've got to provide some man was solutions Gorman very well it is a shame that our state does not fallen. A legal services for those. That ironies civil legal services. Yeah it is a story for another day how poorly. In Asian defenders of criminal cases funded that's a basic Tenet of what America fizzle out. So we're so we're we're stepping up and asking members of the public. What lawyers and on mortars are members of the bar association. Number it was with a born just members of the public interest and helping veterans now what one other point real yeah of course we'll have more to talk about. But one thing that keeps sticking out in my mind about providing legal services of those studies that show an effect Yale university in the veterans administration. Has done a study that indicates. That it providing the civil legal. Services to meet the needs of veterans. Who were also. Patience of the VA administration. Is improving health out columns. Because if you did it if you've got medical problems are also having. Problems at home domestic problems paying your bills renal problems in your note. You know get getting the proper proper benefits you need. Employment. Eliminating barged in employment. That the response to the medical attention. Has been port so we can solve some of that the studies show in the medical outcomes and. And Morris sometimes we. Had that took award internally with ourselves you know what do we do to help you know we cedar belittle. Cracking a handmade crafted sign a veteran he tell and then the bids sometimes we don't go beyond the rhetoric. And I feel good so this is a lamb how long would you work with a veteran. But beyond service with the matter why every case is really fact specific and different. One thing we do a lot about this project is the ability to meet the veterans who where they are. So instead of just open and apps on thing that's downtown and I haven't votes make their way to you we go out and the community to meet that. So we are at the VA hospital two days a week we also. While to Mitch in the bash. We've done. One hour reach event there and had developed a pipeline for some case for all for veterans that live at that particular. Mixed in com affordable housing community. We also were planning another one as soon as their occupancy is now. We have that connection with democratic community count he may not think of that as a place to actions they have almost 900 veterans. The air. Are are their family members I think I'm gonna veterans and 400 veterans fame members. They reduced amount reached and it's set up a pipeline would've been me com college's veterans resource center. And then we had. Just recently begun an outreach to what they called veterans' treatment courts which are on the criminal side but. Sort of that interplay between the announcement civil legal issues that may put them in jeopardy of recidivism. So that cost of veterans. Coming from different places but with you know the majority of them are coming through the VA medical center. It's really different. So what if we have a veteran that we're seeing maybe it's homeless veteran recently. Pop recently homeless veterans just off the streets. Maybe he he he issue as a disability claim that process may take a year to eighteen months too as well. And when you see the amount of medical records that veterans have you don't know why case boxes and boxes thousands and thousands of antigens or person for errors and veteran if they are. Our ability discharged and they have access to the VA hospital you're gonna have boxes and boxes of these things. Tell it takes a lot of work to kind of come through that. Build the record know what's important. Through that legal and he get to stay connected the veterans. And for a long period of time and that's another reason why it's really critical that you get in place with a veteran has other connections. We really great referrals from the hospital social workers and at first they were kind of skeptical light. White ears and hospital in a suit from our practice that's what's the deal in the air. And then they quickly realized. That a lot of the problems they're having we might be. If it's somebody facing. An eviction potentially fiction. That's going to be a a pretty fast. In an. It may or maybe a week or two hour or maybe a month that your helping veterans. So it's really all over the map about how long we work with the matter but no means that the eight cases. Take so long accurate at all. We are just so thrilled that. The new Holland park foundation and and that community hopefully will embrace this project far more long term investment because that's that's what's needed Bolton. Well and after all what we would. The numbers show. Is that since we have been. Financing or funding of the veterans. Just this fellow. An individual lawyer who's actually focused entirely that hundreds literally hundreds of veterans have been touched. Have been contacted. Over a hundred in this short I guess its market idols have been refer have been screened. There and and give an immediate device from a very short term basis or referred to southeast Louisiana legal services. And 44 other work. Over fifty cases have been a long term representation cases of an open forum for one more. And we believe the needs or greater and are going to increase and that's why we're looking to. Begin to look at the increase in funding so that we can we don't want it to believe in it leave anyone about it behind to Brian we need to address. So in layman's terms what we're supporting it. The call goes out the clarion call goes out is supporting mpeg the pay for a fallow through provide delete the civil legal Xperia X expertise and help. A simple enough I got it and let me give you an example sometimes it helps. Put things in perspective especially if you're not here to re getting referrals from really all over the place because there hasn't been essential. For veterans to just go to for legal services unit is not a special clean up until this project. And so the community. Here's about it at at and note a New Orleans bar association meetings about the work at the town of their foundation are pan Asian. And they started hearing about it. And beginning to. Put it into Saturday all right give you a recent example. We had terrible year knew who works for a local bank recently. Within a cat the united cap. And it's been you know nobody takes as anyway all right so he was he's in the cab in this gentleman was his driver. And somehow they got to talking and cat turns out to jive as a veteran. And 78 years old and stuff surrounding the why. He was really going through some things personally in his life. And had gone back to work where he worked for like fifteen years. To try to get some additional money and educate you know without the other things being a regular cab drivers have these states. So they got to talking. And that the attorney in the back of the cab remembered. Pay her something this project maybe they can help. And the wheels turned and I'm I'm happy to report we were able to keep that veteran from being evicted it's 79 years old. And war and are still working he actually had like three different legal issues that's the other thing we're finding. It's not just one thing as flight. And I need help with this family manner and visitation child who are have gone any addiction and I needed discharge upgrade hey you know we're finding multiple. Different things is pretty common. And is there ripple effect sometimes it may start off that you mean ebit at pay your mortgage or your rant in that at least something else the end Java something else there's nothing else. Well Andy and Monica that's why it's so important what you're doing right now. Helping us get the word out not just ask people to send money so we can funded but also to get the word out to veterans. No this veteran didn't know that there was access to legal services that help him through his problems. And that's one of the big things that we intend to do over the next year I've got a year's present in the bar foundation. And and I tend to spend a lot of time getting the word out. So that veterans here about a veterans know about it if it they can get screening get referred for services and decide that they don't need. Legal services but at least knowing that it's available when and and a potential assistance to them. So that I mean that's almost as important as he had worked itself. Ryan and and the the ability to let people know there's always there's a place to we're. Lowers people or are talking to the staff shall hospital social workers the doctors the nurses. We're talking to lawyers were and now the U Monica thank you we're talking to the public. About letting doctors know who have difficult. It's well with all the talk about media what it is and isn't. This is an opportunity to go beyond ourselves will be on call letters go beyond what we individually do and collectively. Put out the call for help on better it's because again you don't know who the bitterness. And Leslie when aside and telling you you don't know who they are and what they need. Well you know what I keep thinking every time I go through an airport NC a bunch of soldiers. Getting off on an airplane. People actually thank you for your service thank you for your service thank you for your service but after the soldier gets out of the service. What do we do and thank them for their service. And where while the veterans administration provide and the veterans administration hospitals have had their difficulties they seem to be shaping up. So you another thing we can do is like of their servicemen not leave them behind after they've left the military. Absolutely it and and that's you know part of what we're doing here. And Laura have been talking about you or our organization's southeast Louisiana legal services and you also are reaching a milestone tell us about the the fifty years of service wow. In 1967. November 6 of 1967. Our predecessor organization in New Orleans legal assistance corporation are no lack. That's what a lot of people still locally college. It was founded. It was started outage is part of a Legal Services Corp. and then the federal organization I'm mentioned. And at that time we have and our first office opened in the Ninth Ward and our. Chief current Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Burnett Josh Johnson was one of our managers are managing attorney. Of that office back in the day I think legendary mr. I think we still have her desk as. We are non profit because of my name a lot of folks realize that we're nonprofit. So we're coming up on our. Steve here we're celebrating in all year. We had a big kick off thin in November. At the Louisiana Supreme Court. And we had a lot of national leaders and state bar leaders come down and local community members. And we had a great time and we're doing for other events throughout the year in partnership with each Louisiana law school on cited the law school. We have an event coming up it to blame Moscow on the Monday after Mardi Gras and him. Southern and then in the fall will be doing Oreo line and and Alan issue and our New Orleans office for doing a lot of things in our fiftieth year. So we have been located at 1010 common street. Force that sixteen years where actually move in the New Orleans office. Freaking out a little bit because it's happening at the end of march it's our largest office and we. Probably had fifty years of stuff which we man yeah skinny down a bit. We let paper's style employers do so we are moving to thirteen forty point dress on the sixth floor. And for April 2 with that's where we'll be located. So we're going to be having an open house there. We're revamping our website I aid where upgrading our case management system to that clown. We get incredible support. From Louisiana bar foundation and that's allowing businesses to do some of these things and Baptist community ministry east right here in your building. Is helping us with a number of efforts including. Dating or our web site I want him into one other thing about it I have my fiftieth anniversary program book than perhaps for awhile there. But on page five it. It says that early days of legal aid. And even before. We were an organization. We had agreed to the New Orleans bar association. After the depression in the 1930s. The New Orleans bar association stepped up. And provided the services it could. And it had its roots in founding. A group called the legal aid bureau which existed for many years and it's no longer in existence. But our roots with the New Orleans bar association and its service to the community go back to 1930s. So a lot of people don't. Do you realize that I mean you know we all get older and you know move on and and I don't know that we all realize how deep does who's been together this. And roots of the most important but almost all the time at Walter for those who are not only listening but are motivated and want to follow through with a commitment to help. Support of a fellow what should they did. They can call they can donate to go online Europe and always Marshall decision by the way it was founded before Louisiana abortion position. Long before it in the and the pictures on the wall and there are some of the most prominent lawyers in the history of Louisiana. But to watch the lawyers as southeast Louisiana. Legal services that work you're doing a good hard work without reclaim without pictures on the wall was really excited really good people and good decision. But you can donate and help us foreign to what they do good things they do. My contacting www. New Orleans bar dot org. Or calling. 504525745350. 45257453. Offices or in mailed us which fifty point rush at any amount will work any amount. Five dollars 5000 dollars and Immelt that you want to call me in my office or help. And we we we definitely definitely wanna join with you and your listeners and leaving Novak. Here here. Walter Leger president of the New Orleans bar foundation. Talking about this exciting veterans justice fellowship. And we've also been joined by a lower toggle the executive director of southeast Louisiana legal services and happy fiftieth thank you and thanks for being with us. That is on you for today and he's so much for joining us until next time enjoy this Sunday and whom many of you.