WEDC Gift Guide 2022

Texas veterans need our help, especially during COVID-19

by | Nov 5, 2020 | Opinion

Texas has the second-highest population of veterans in the country––nearly 1.5 million––and many of these veterans are poor or homeless. While groups around the state are tirelessly working on veterans’ behalf, there is always more to be done to ensure their civil legal needs, like eviction and the inability to access medical care, are being met as they reintegrate back into civilian life––especially during a global pandemic.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 5.2 million Texans, including a significant number of veterans, qualified for civil legal aid. This number is only expected to increase as we continue to see the devastating financial and economic fallout, unemployment and uncertainty caused by COVID-19. Veterans aren’t exempt from this; they are an already vulnerable group made even more vulnerable by the coronavirus pandemic.

Legal issues amount for five of the top 10 unmet needs of homeless veterans, according to the annual survey of homeless and formerly homeless veterans by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Legal aid programs, local bar associations, law schools and pro bono lawyers all help provide civil legal aid for veterans, but they struggle to meet demand without adequate funding. Veteran legal issues––including credit problems, accessing benefits, landlord/tenant disputes, restoring a driver’s license and denial of critical medical care––are essential legal issues that must be handled in order to keep Texas veterans from falling through the cracks.

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (TAJF), created in 1984 to provide funding for civil legal aid in Texas, is committed to the vision that all Texans will have equal access to justice, regardless of income. Last year, The Foundation awarded more than $6 million in two-year grants to 13 Texas legal aid providers to provide civil legal services to low-income veterans. This year, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, grantees of the TAJF, the Texas Veterans Legal Aid Coalition pivoted from coordinating in-person veteran legal aid clinics to virtual clinics across the state, along with creating a series of videos about benefits available for veterans.

In an additional show of support for Texas veterans, TAJF established the Joe Jamail Endowment for Veteran Legal Services in 2017 to ensure veterans have fair and equitable access to the justice system. Earlier this year, the Endowment reached a milestone $1 million in donations, which will be used to provide legal representation to veterans throughout the state.

This year is also the 10th anniversary of Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans, a collaborative effort between local bar associations and legal aid organizations that specifically addresses the need for pro bono civil legal assistance for veterans and their families.

Each year, the week of Veterans Day is designated as Texas Veterans Legal Aid Week (TVLAW). This year from Nov. 9-13, local bar associations, legal aid organizations and law schools across Texas are hosting free, virtual legal clinics to serve veterans with the support and civil legal guidance they need. To find a clinic in your area, visit texaslawhelp.org/tvlaw-2020 or call the statewide hotline at 1-800-622-2520.

Texas veterans are at an increased risk of displacement, unemployment, requiring medical care and other problems arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s on us to make sure they are adequately being taken care of. We must ensure they can access the resources and services they need to reintegrate back into civilian life and thrive even despite the current public health crisis. Legal aid services can make a real difference in the lives of veterans who qualify, and support for these services ensures that veterans aren’t left behind as the state works toward COVID-19 recovery.

By Nathan L. Hecht and Terry Tottenham

Hecht is chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas and is a U.S. Navy veteran. Terry Tottenham is on the board of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, a U.S. Marine Corp veteran, and served as the president of the State Bar of Texas from 2010-2011, during which time he founded Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans.

 

Veterans

0 Comments

Related News

Thankful for old friends

Thankful for old friends

It’s Thanksgiving week, a great time to reflect, give thanks, or in other words, gratitude.  I’m thankful for so much this season.  One thing in particular is a reconnection with an old friend. We’ve all got those people in our lives, that for a season were...

read more
Know beans about chili

Know beans about chili

“Oh, waiter. There’s a bean in my chili.” So goes the encounter every Southerner dreads when he orders a bowl of red and is served chili with beans. There are certain missteps in the South that are unforgivable. Asking a girl out without clearing it first with her...

read more
Your friends can make all the difference

Your friends can make all the difference

I write this from my chemo chair as I undergo another day or treatment in my cancer journey. I’m blessed by friends who drive me to treatment and rides back home. The treatment itself is lonely. I sit in the chair while they hang bag after bag of meds for infusion...

read more
The Fouke Monster

The Fouke Monster

When I was a kid in the early 1970s, the Fouke Monster was around every corner. At least, that was how I saw things as a 10-year-old. For those who aren’t familiar with this Sasquatch-like creature, the Fouke Monster allegedly roamed (some say, still roams) the river...

read more
Don’t forget to remember

Don’t forget to remember

I didn’t want to do it. It had been on my calendar awhile and as it got closer, I wanted to be part of it less and less. You know what that's like, don’t you? We only have so many open spaces on our calendar and when there is something on there that we don’t want to...

read more

A Pizza History

The old question, “Where would you go first if you had a time machine?” is an easy one to answer for me. I’d visit all of my favorite long-since-gone childhood cafes, diners, and restaurants. Not all, but one stop may soon be possible, without the help of H.G. Wells....

read more

Taking the fall

You meet people in the South who like spring, summer or winter, but virtually everyone below the Mason Dixon Line loves fall. I can speak to my affinity for the fall season, which in Ashdown, Arkansas, is at least three weeks. Four if you’re lucky. Fall is that time...

read more

The screening process

Movies were better in a theater. A theater filled with people. Such was the case before the internet. Before HBO. Before people holed up in their living rooms and away from their neighbors and friends. A time when pay-per-view meant you bought a ticket to watch a...

read more
Which is more powerful, influence or authority?

Which is more powerful, influence or authority?

We’re solidly into an election season where people are making plenty of claims regarding how they are more of an authority on issues. They suppose being an authority or having authority is a winning track.  What if authority isn’t the greatest asset for a leader?...

read more
Remember to remember

Remember to remember

How good is your memory? I remember many years ago laughing at my grandmother because she would leave one room and go into another and forget why she went into that room. Well, I’m not laughing anymore because I often experience that myself nowadays! It’s a normal...

read more