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Honoring 1.7-Million TX Veterans, Today and Year-Round

PHOTO: The Texas men and women who have served in the military are being honored on this Veterans Day, but some folks are making sure vets in the state have the support they need every week of the year. Photo credit: Paul Long
PHOTO: The Texas men and women who have served in the military are being honored on this Veterans Day, but some folks are making sure vets in the state have the support they need every week of the year. Photo credit: Paul Long
November 11, 2013

AUSTIN, Texas - For many veterans who have returned home from Afghanistan and Iraq, the move back into civilian life can present a variety of barriers. But people are stepping up across the state - and the help is year-round, not just on Veterans Day.

One program, Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans, provides free legal clinics for those who might not otherwise be able to access or afford the services. Terry Tottenham,. former State Bar of Texas president and Marine, said the need is great.

"What we're finding is that, because of the economic downturn, there are a lot of our veterans who simply cannot find a job," he said. "They just don't have the financial resources to retain a lawyer. That's why we've set these clinics up around the state."

With the success in Texas, Tottenham said, the program now has expanded to more than a dozen other states.

"It is a model elsewhere," he said. "We've served over 10,000 veterans and their families (in) Texas alone, and it is being picked up by states all over the country. There is a nationwide need for these services."

Among the other key areas of support needed for veterans is mental health services, and Tottenham said they're also working in that area.

"We've partnered with the Texas Community Health Centers, which basically is an organization of mental health professionals - social workers, psychologists, folks like that - who are interested in providing free assistance where necessary to assist our veterans," he said. "Mental health is a huge issue amongst our veteran population, now more than ever."

In the past decade, mental health diagnoses, including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder have risen 65 percent among active-duty service members.

More information on local resources for veterans is available through the State Bar of Texas or the Texas Veterans Commission. There are about 1.7 million veterans in the state.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX