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State of the Texas Judiciary: Not Enough Support for Veterans

PHOTO: Texas veterans often need legal assistance, from family matters to obtaining benefits, and the Texas Supreme Court is recommending that more money be allocated to help them. Photo courtesy of US Army.
PHOTO: Texas veterans often need legal assistance, from family matters to obtaining benefits, and the Texas Supreme Court is recommending that more money be allocated to help them. Photo courtesy of US Army.
February 18, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas - The chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court delivers his State of the Judiciary before a joint session of the Texas House and Senate today, and the needs of veterans will figure prominently in the address.

Chief Justice Nathan Hecht said he'll speak about the efforts to improve access to justice for veterans who can face a myriad of civil legal issues as they return from deployment.

"Veterans coming back from service often have difficulty obtaining the benefits we promised them," Hecht said. "Sometimes, unfortunately, they come back to families that have atrophied, jobs that are hard to find, homes in jeopardy of foreclosure, debt collection and other things."

Hecht said those are all matters with which attorneys can help, and while many lawyers in Texas do agree to take cases pro bono (or without pay), some 80 percent of veterans still must be turned away because there isn't enough funding for legal assistance.

Because of that shortage of available help, Hecht said, in today's address he will ask state lawmakers to fill that gap with $4 million over the next two years.

"It's a very strong belief in the military that you must not leave any soldier behind," he said. "We just don't want them to come back and find that the freedoms and the people that they fought for have deserted them."

Texas has the second-highest veteran population of any state in the nation, with around 1.7 million former service members.

More on legal aid for Texas veterans is online at tlsc.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX