Volunteer attorneys in Madison County on Nov. 10 and 15 will again offer free legal services to veterans, many of whom face special challenges upon returning to their communities.
“We have volunteer lawyers to help them with legal advice,” Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder, chair of the Pro Bono Committee, told the Record. The committee sponsors the event annually around Veterans Day. "It’s just a thank-you for their service,” she said.
Veterans may make appointments with an attorney by contacting Lauren Jansen at 618-296-4472 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. The appointments are 30 minutes long and can be made between 9 a.m. and noon or between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on either of the days. Appointments will be held at the Madison County Law Library, which is located in the lower level of the Madison County Courthouse, 155 N. Main St., Edwardsville.
According to recent statistics, Crowder said, Madison County has more than 20,000 veterans, with up to a third estimated to be struggling with homelessness or living in poverty. Facing that situation usually leads to special legal needs, and veterans may not even know about the services that exist for them.
“When you are in that situation, you may not be in the position to hear about some of the services that can help you,” she said. “We like to emphasize our service to vets and let people know about some of the issues they face every day.”
Crowder said county attorneys volunteer throughout the year for the county’s legal advice center, which already provides free legal services to veterans and low-income residents. Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation also maintains a list of volunteer attorneys who assist veterans with their legal needs.
The two-day November event is meant to put veterans’ issues in the community spotlight. The legal advice is limited to civil and family law cases and is not available for criminal cases.
Crowder said veterans’ legal issues usually involve small claims and judgments, eviction, collections, child support and visitation. She said offering legal advice can help lead to a break in those cycles that keep veterans struggling.
“They have the same legal problems, but they also have additional challenges, such as facing PTSD or some disability related to their service,” she said. “We think they deserve any help we can give them.”
Crowder said another great local resource for veterans is the Madison County Veterans Assistance Commission, which offers assistance with compensation and pension claims, health care benefits, applications and forms processing, military and medical documentation, referral services, wills and assistance in obtaining Illinois state ID cards.
The commission operates an employment center that includes resume services and a computer lab, as well as transportation assistance. It also provides interim or emergency assistance to veterans to help cover rent payments to avoid eviction, utility payments to avoid shutoff, food and essentials, indigent burial expenses, miscellaneous disability care expenses and homeless/transitional housing referrals.
There are income requirements for veterans in the program and assistance is not intended to be permanent.