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In Search of Answers for Veterans

The Houston Bar Association has stepped up its outreach to the veteran population. The effort includes several regular legal clinics including a weekly one at the DeBakey VA Medical Center. Capella Tucker reports.



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“The folks who went out and have fought and served our country to preserve our justice system, should be at the front of the line to get served by that justice system.”

Houston Bar Association President Travis Sales:

“A lot of them have wills and probate needs, family law issues, consumer issues, bankruptcy issues, issues that most of us face, but many of them have disability and complicated and more bureaucratic issues to deal with.”

Every Friday, several physician offices are taken over by a handful of attorneys. Volunteer attorney Jac Brennan can be found answering veterans questions on most Friday’s. She’s there because she wants to use the law to help people — that includes homeless veterans.

“I always say they have one thing that keeps them from getting on with the rest of their life. Like maybe they don’t know if they are divorced, you know. Like they haven’t seen their spouse in 20 years, but don’t know if there’s an actual divorce. Or maybe they have some old criminal conviction in another state, but they never did do their community service, so they are afraid to go get a driver’s license. But because of that, they can’t go and get a job.”

Brennan says getting the one matter resolved can be a veteran’s first step to building a life that is not on the streets. And it’s not always a legal issue. Sometimes the matter can be intimidating and a veteran needs someone to make a phone call on their behalf. Often one phone call is not enough to get answers and it takes some and patience.

“Sometimes they have very little of that, you know, and so I think that’s one reason they don’t do it themselves. They are not sure where to start. Even if they know where to start, they don’t know what’s next; what’s the second step; what’s the third step, so it’s a lot of hand holding through that.”

And then the veteran may not get the answer he or she wants.

“I can say you know that isn’t going to be resolved. There isn’t a law to resolve that. I understand you are frustrated, or I understand that it’s not fair, but not fair is not the same as unlawful. So there is some face to face, eye to eye explanation of that.”

Brennan sees some of herself in the veterans, because she used to search for legal answers with limited information.

“I have nine children. The youngest five are adopted and have different kinds of disabilities.”

Brennan’s experience of searching for answers for her children led her to law school.

“So I do disability law. That’s what I’ve always done so I see a lot of unhappiness and a lot of unfairness.”

And now she shares her knowledge with veterans.

“Most all of the people that I see here, they have done some research. Like the guy I just talked to, he had six folders of his stuff. He had looked up stuff in law books, he had copies of things. It does remind me of me because I did that too.”

And so on many Friday’s, Brennan takes time to sit down with veterans to guide and educate them in their search for answers.

Capella Tucker, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

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