Of an approximate 260 cases reported by the VLP staff this year, about 60 veterans have received legal consultation. Among these, a smaller percentage of cases require no further action. About 80 veterans received direct representation/case management assistance from the VLP, while an additional 20 cases are still under review. There are an estimated 30-60 legal consultations conducted per quarter through telephone Q & A documented through the VLP phone system.
The most needed support is for family law. It is important to note that divorce and child custody cases are typically ongoing, requiring modifications and motions months and throughout the life of the children. For specific matters the VLP is not able to address, staff provides referral outreach to NH Pro Bono and Reduced Fee services or identifies a specialist within our growing referral network of attorneys within the state for referable cases.
The VLP is located in the downstairs office at 77 Central Street, Manchester, NH. On the first day of operation, the VLP assisted 30 veterans and receives referrals from the VA in Manchester, the White River Junction VA, Easter Seals, Pro Force, United Way, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Vets, the American Legion, SVAC, area police departments, correctional facilities, Senatorial offices, NH delegates, through our web presence and links online. The VLP continues to provide direct representation, office & phone consultation to pro se litigants & referrals to: 1) NH Bar pro bono 2) NH Bar reduced fee programs and 3) NH attorneys connecting to the VLP and 4) other agencies.
Launched January 2015, VLP has assisted veterans from every NH county. Additionally, VLP staff has traveled outside the state to assist NH veterans with cases in Washington D.C. and New York. The VLP has also served out-of-state residents requesting legal resources online or over the phone from Vermont, Maine, North Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Alabama & Arkansas.
The VLP Staff is made of veterans and military families who understand the unique issues facing our target population. The VLP employs one full-time Program Director, a veteran, and highly experienced paralegal in multiple areas of law, specializing in family law, the most needed specialty among the veteran contacts. The VLP cases are handled directly and under the supervision of the part-time Staff Attorney & Legal Director. The VLP has a volunteer Executive Director who oversees program development and provides operational support. Additionally, the VLP is developing a staff of VA claims assistants and is supported by three UNH Law School interns. Furthermore, the VLP Advisory Board provides useful input and resources from a variety of industries, professionals and public officers familiar with veterans issues.
Typical VLP litigants are from all branches of service and eras of war from 1954 to present with a strong showing of Vietnam War veterans, a “neglected class” of which 40-60% fought in combat, provided close support or were at least fairly regularly exposed to enemy attack. The tremendous response from veterans of this generation suggests a large gap in service exists, whereas respondents say they have never found nor received assistance, benefits, or services to which they are entitled to receive.
Most litigants are male and seeking assistance with family law issues, particularly child support modifications. The VLP has discovered for most homeless and unemployed veterans, their struggle can be traced to past child support orders based on active duty income, which can not be fulfilled after separation from military service. Furthermore, veterans are experiencing unfair bias as it relates to PTSD and time in service where plaintiffs are inappropriately using post war trauma as grounds for denying veterans basic parental rights.