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Free Legal Assistance for Struggling TX Veterans

September 6, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas - A new toll-free hotline is providing low-income Texas veterans with free legal aid in civil cases.

Today's returning veterans are more likely than the general population to face unemployment, homelessness and disabilities. While the Veterans Administration and Texas Veterans Commission often can assist with major challenges, sometimes a relatively minor legal obstacle can be the start of a downward spiral.

George Murff, managing attorney with the Veterans Legal Assistance Project, says the idea of the hotline is to relieve vets of the kinds of legal headaches that sideline working-class people everywhere.

"... Problems with their landlord, with divorces and child support and custody. Contract disputes. All the little things that add up and make life challenging for people at the lower end of the economic spectrum."

The toll-free hotline is open to all Texas veterans who earn up to 200 percent of the official poverty rate. It does not handle criminal cases or traffic tickets, Murff says. Attorneys already have assisted nearly 1,000 veterans - negotiating with utilities, reviewing documents, preparing for court hearings, fighting for benefits or making referrals to other resources.

The unemployment rate among veterans is more than 13 percent - about 4 percent higher than the national average. Many lack college degrees, Murff says, which makes job searches tougher.

"It's an unfortunate fact that, sometimes, serving your country doesn't help your career afterwards. So, we're just making sure that veterans have access to as good or better legal services as other members of the population."

Funding for the program comes, in part, from the sale of Veterans Cash lottery scratch-off tickets.

Murff says more information about the hotline can be found at the Texas Legal Services Center website: TLSC.org ...

"...Or for you veterans: Tango-Lima-Sierra-Charlie-dot-Oscar-Romeo-Golf."

The hotline number is 800-622-2520. The Texas Veterans Commission has information about benefits and resources online at tvc.state.tx.us.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX