VA clinics offer free legal help for local veterans

Published On: Nov 11 2012 10:52:55 PM EST   Updated On: Nov 11 2012 11:00:00 PM EST

The Valor Project is a VA program that is helping local vets get the legal help they need.


Broward County has one of the largest veteran populations in Florida. Some of these vets, at one time or another, need legal help. That's where the Valor Project steps in.

U.S. Navy veteran Don Lyon is studying to become a heating and air conditioning technician. Part of the job requirement is a drivers license.

"When I went to apply for a license the lady at the Department of Motor Vehicles said 'Oh, there's a warrant out for your arrest,'" said Lyon.

Fortunately, Lyon was able to find free legal help at the Tamarac VA clinic.

Coast to Coast Legal Aid Attorney Jayme Cassidy works with vets on a weekly basis. Seeing as many as six a day.

"A small legal barrier or an economic barrier that can be fixed in the legal process, shouldn't prohibit him or her from again becoming a productive member of society,” said Cassidy. 

She helped Lyon convince a judge that the warrant was a case of mistaken identity.

Cassidy also meets with vets like Alan Jones, helping them with benefit issues or civil legal problems.

'A lot of times these issues have been piling up for them, and it's not just one or two, it's multiple issues usually and they've become overwhelmed,” said Cassidy.

"The bureaucracy, the red tape, it's exhausting. It's absolutely exhausting. It can't be done without help," said Jones.

Help can be a phone call or a full administrative hearing. Elaine Smith is in the middle of a disability payment dispute and felt overwhelmed.

"I can't really go up against the big dogs of the military and their lawyers. So I knew I needed help," Smith said.

Cassidy grew up in a military family and has already worked with almost 200 veterans since starting the program earlier this year. She said there is enough work to expand it to five days a week.


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