Kentucky Bar Foundation Grants Provide Important Legal Services to Veterans
Since 2011, the Kentucky Bar Foundation has awarded grants totaling $115,000 to Kentucky agencies that provide legal services and counseling to veterans. Those grants have helped veterans like "John" who was struggling after returning home from war.
Kentucky is home to approximately 346,000 veterans. Despite its large community of veterans and the surge of veterans returning home from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kentucky did not have a legal assistance program in place for this population until recently. Veterans face a broad range of legal concerns. Many of these issues are similar to those of average citizens and encompass family, housing, consumer, probate, wills, guardianship, and bankruptcy law. Veterans also have legal needs that are exclusive to their time in service, including a need for information relating to the availability of benefits and assistance in navigating the complex structure of benefits claims and appeals. While the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs and various service organizations are often highly successful with pursuing benefits claims for veterans, nearly one-third of veterans seeking benefits go unrepresented, often losing out on thousands of dollars per year in eligible benefits. Since 2009, the Kentucky Bar Foundation has awarded grants totaling $115,000 to Kentucky agencies that provide legal services and counseling to veterans. The first grant in 2009 was made to the Legal Aid Society ("Legal Aid") to support the pilot work that Kentucky's four legal aid programs were doing through the Kentucky Corps of Advocates for Veterans ("KCAV"). Since the launch of KCAV, Legal Aid and the other regional legal aid programs have helped approximately 1,500 veterans with their civil legal issues. This work is viewed as a model nationwide. Legal Aid expanded the early success of KCAV into other initiatives. In 2013, Legal Aid was awarded two AmeriCorps Equal Justice Works Fellowships to fund two full-time staff attorneys dedicated to addressing the legal needs of low-income veterans and their families. In addition to providing professional legal services, these attorneys also partnered with the Veterans Treatment Courts of Hardin and Jefferson Counties. In the fall of 2015, Legal Aid received a federal grant to begin a new program and commenced work on the Volunteer Lawyers for Veterans Program, which is pushing the accomplishments of KCAV beyond the boundaries of Legal Aid's regional area of service into a statewide initiative. This ambitious endeavor seeks to recruit an additional 200 attorneys to provide pro bono services and to serve more than 1,200 veterans in less than two years. The KBF’s early funding for this work was critical to laying the foundation for this most recent initiative and for the legal help that will be provided to thousands of Kentucky’s veterans. This work impacts lives -- lives like "John," a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq who came to Legal Aid looking for someone to care. When Staff Attorney Sean Dennis first met John, he had been home from war for just eight months, and each day seemed like a new struggle. John wanted to buy a home and begin his new civilian life, but he was denied a loan. Disappointed and disheartened, John was referred to Legal Aid. Legal Aid discovered that John had been the victim of identity theft while he was deployed. With the help of Legal Aid, John was able to restore his credit rating. When John received the good news, he said to Sean, "it doesn't just rain all the time." John's victory in his case removed an enormous weight from his shoulders and for the first time since he returned from abroad, he felt happy. The Kentucky Bar Foundation is proud to provide support to agencies that help America's veterans like John.