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Attorneys Provide Free Legal Advice to Low-Income ND Vets

Veterans Affairs medical centers are looking to provide more legal aid to veterans. (1laura/Pixabay)
Veterans Affairs medical centers are looking to provide more legal aid to veterans. (1laura/Pixabay)
December 12, 2018

FARGO, N.D. - Attorneys in North Dakota are providing free legal advice on civil matters to low-income veterans once a month.

The free clinics are part of a medical-legal partnership that's seen as a key component to veterans' health. Civil legal assistance is required for half of the top 10 unmet needs of male homeless veterans and four out of 10 unmet needs of female homeless veterans, according to a 2016 study by the National Center for Medical Legal Partnership.

Attorney Shanda Fisher with Legal Services of North Dakota, who hosted the first clinic in November, said veterans have a variety of short-term and long-term legal needs.

"People facing an eviction, for example - that's a more immediate concern that they're facing," she said. "So, I would say that one of the main things that we do is, we help people to figure out where they are - and I think that, in turn, reduces stress."

The clinics are held on the fourth Wednesday of each month at Fargo Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The goal is to help with legal needs that have an effect on a person's health, including employment and legal status, income supports and domestic violence. Attorneys also can assist with family and elder law, and debt-collection concerns.

Adele Page, deputy director of Legal Services of North Dakota, said her organization began a medical-legal partnership pilot program in 2016, embedding attorneys in health-care clinics to assist low-income patients. Now the program has expanded to the VA. Page said VAs across the country are looking for more legal supports at their facilities.

"They understand that in order to be successful, to make the veterans safe and healthy, that they also need these legal supports for their health-harming legal needs," she said.

Page said the clinic eventually could start giving legal support via video to the rest of the state.

More information on the clinics is online at facebook.com, and the National Center for Medical Legal Partnership study is at ctveteranslegal.org.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND