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American military veterans can face challenges with government benefits, medical care, and stable housing. Over the years, the Clearinghouse Review covered these issues and advocacy strategies for handling them. This collection highlights some of those articles about the pressing civil legal needs of veterans.

The Movement Toward Veterans Courts

By Steve Berenson

Military veterans return home from overseas conflicts with “invisible wounds” of combat—posttraumatic stress disorder, major depression, and traumatic brain injury. These wounds can lead to a veteran’s ultimate involvement in the legal system. Jurisdictions have launched veterans court initiatives to tackle the unique problems that bring about such involvement and resolve the problems in a manner such that healing is fostered and recidivism prevented. Advocates should be aware of the value of these courts and of some considerations in creating such initiatives.

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Advocating Benefits for Veterans

By Barton F. Stichman

The Veterans’ Judicial Review Act of 1988 and the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006 give veterans the right of judicial review of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefit decisions and the right to hire an attorney to represent them in VA actions—two rights long denied them. Advocates need to be knowledgeable about VA disability programs, the ins-and-outs of the VA adjudicatory system, and the resources for advocates to ensure that disabled veterans get the benefits they need and deserve.

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What Difference Does It Make if the Client Is a Veteran? None if You Don't Ask About Veteran Status

By Mary Ellen McCarthy

By asking a low-income or elderly legal aid client if the client is a veteran, dependent of a veteran, or survivor of a veteran, those who represent poor, elderly, and disabled persons may be able to identify monetary benefits and services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and these benefits may help resolve the client’s legal issues. An advocate need not be an expert in veterans law to identify VA benefits and refer a client to VA for assistance. A quick screening guide and descriptions of some monetary and health benefits help advocates ask the right questions and refer clients to resources.

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Helping Veterans Overcome Homelessness

By Rick Little & Stacy Garrick Zimmerman

Veterans are twice as likely as the general population to become chronically homeless. Many resources can help veterans improve their finances and access supportive housing so that they can have a place to live and can lead healthy, stable lives. Greater availability of two innovative legal programs—alternative sentencing statutes and veterans courts—would link at-risk veterans to life-saving treatment and lower their risk of homelessness.

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Using the Transitional Jobs Strategy to Help Chronically Unemployed Veterans

By John Bouman & Kalia Coleman

Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have substantially higher rates of unemployment than the general population, and many of their employment barriers are rooted in their military experience. A “transitional jobs” strategy has helped other groups of people with employment barriers connect to the workforce and maintain stable employment; if the core elements are in place, the strategy offers the same promise for veterans. While no dedicated funding stream is yet in place, a variety of sources could be tapped to support transitional jobs for veterans.

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Establishing a Successful Veterans Benefits Project

Two Perspectives

By John S. Anderson & Victor Geminiani

Legal aid programs are well positioned to deliver much-needed legal assistance to veterans in need of representation to secure U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs benefits. Creating a veterans advocacy project within a legal aid organization can be a great way to leverage resources to serve veterans optimally. Whether a program receives funding from the Legal Services Corporation or not, managers should keep in mind a number of special considerations when creating a veterans benefits project.

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Special Considerations When Representing Military Veteran Clients

By David Ackerly

Assisting disabled military veterans, who risked injury and death in the service of their country, in obtaining veterans benefits is an honor. Veterans benefit cases involve a slow campaign of paperwork against an intractable bureaucracy—the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)—unaccustomed to lawyers representing clients. To succeed in veterans benefits practice, attorneys should learn the different language and culture of the military world and the ramifications of going to war. Although clients with PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) and traumatic brain injury can be very difficult, getting VA to approve their benefits is very rewarding.

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