News article: South Texas launches a legal aid program for vets

1/21/2016

Veterans in South Texas will now have access to free legal services.

One of the unfortunate realities for U.S. veterans returning from active duty is that their physical, emotional and financial status has almost always been affected by their service. In addition to any disabilities, there is always the risk that they will have to confront discrimination based on their chosen profession.

According to The McAllen Monitor, nearly half of returning veterans sought care at the VA using veterans benefits, many of them for mental illness. Texas is home to the second-largest population of veterans in the country, which means that there is plenty of need for affordable legal services to navigate the complicated legalese of civilian life. Thankfully, a program to do just that now exists.

The Texas Civil Rights Project recently announced a new Veterans' Rights Program aimed at assisting the 40,000 or so veterans living in the Rio Grande Valley.

"Veterans not only have the challenge of re-acclimating to civilian life - seeking health, education and other benefits to which they are entitled - but also often have the added challenge of navigating that process with physical or mental disabilities that they acquired during service," said Emma Hilbert, the program's attorney, in a statement to Equal Voice.

"Added to these challenges, some veterans face discrimination because of such a disability or their status as a veteran," Hilbert continued.

Former servicemembers living in the Rio Grande Valley already have the support of hundreds of organizations and groups, but Felix Rodriguez, Hidalgo County's veterans service officer, said that the legal rights office would offer the kind of protection many veterans are missing. 

Any veterans or family members of veterans having trouble gaining access to public resources or residences will find themselves heard and represented at TCRP. 

"I have veterans with legal matters who don't know where to go and it's a good thing we have this program now so we can send them here and they can get the relief they are seeking," Rodriguez told The Monitor. 

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