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Legal Help for Veterans Is On The Way

Expressing thanks and gratitude for veterans doesn’t have to be something that only happens on Veterans Day. It can be something that’s done year round. Thanks to an expanding program, veterans all over the country may soon have access to legal help free of charge.

A program called Texas Lawyer for Texas Veterans that was founded in 2010 is in the process of expanding nationwide. The idea was thought up in response to the high homeless population among veterans.

Local chapters of the State Bar of Texas help to connect attorneys throughout the state with veterans who need legal assistance. The Texas Bar estimates that since 2010 more than 9,000 attorneys have contributed to the program with more than 28,000 veterans receiving help.

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The Texas Bar Association is now hoping the program can catch on throughout the country. More than two dozen states are said to be interested in receiving assistance from the Texas Bar on how to launch the same kind of program to help veterans.

“We know that the need is there and the program is easy to implement,” says Terry Tottenham, a veteran who originally launched the program when he was Texas Bar Association president. “It’s just a matter of getting the word out to bar associations around the country.”

The expansion is beginning with the so-called “clinic in a box” that provides office supplies and legal forms. When other states start to recruit lawyers to volunteer for the program as they do in Texas, those lawyers will be able to help veterans fill out those forms and offer legal advice. On occasion, those lawyers may even represent veterans in legal proceedings pro bono.

“They answered all my questions, gave me feedback,” said Victor Ledesma, a 70-year old Vietnam veteran who utilized the program in Texas. “I would encourage other veterans to go to them because they were really great. If not for them, I would have been at a total loss. I wouldn’t have known who to call or where to go.”

With the success of the program in Texas over the last seven years, there’s no reason for other states not to adopt similar programs as a way to give back to veterans 12 months a year.