The first Veterans Dial-A-Lawyer Program, held Oct. 25, offered U.S. veterans the opportunity to receive free legal advice, via telephone, from volunteer lawyers as a public service of the Massachusetts Bar Association.
Fourteen lawyers with experience ranging from civil to medical malpractice litigation, gathered for three hours at the MBA’s Boston office to answer veterans’ questions, many of which dealt with concerns over changes in military benefits and disability.
“Veterans are a faction of our society most in need of legal services,” said volunteer Maureen Reilly, Esq. “They deserve our help and respect at this point.”
Many of the attorneys volunteered for the Veterans Dial-A-Lawyer Program for personal reasons. Out of the group of 14, six were veterans and many more had close connections to family members and friends involved with U.S. military services.
“I have a 20-year-old son not in the service,” said Maureen Counihan, Esq. “I appreciate others volunteering to fight and I want to contribute.”
Attorneys participating in the Dial-A-Lawyer Program and upcoming initiatives attended a free training in September sponsored by the MBA and U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management, Boston. The training was led by Ronald B. Abrams, joint executive director, and Louis J. George, staff attorney, of the National Veterans Legal Services Program in Washington, D.C.
“The MBA is extremely proud of the work we’ve accomplished for veterans so far, but we also realize that there’s a lot more that we can be doing to assist those who have served,” said Elizabeth O’Neil, director of the MBA’s Community and Public Services Department. “We hope that the Veterans Pro Bono Training that occurred in September and the specific Veteran’s Dial-A-Lawyer Program in October will ultimately benefit the hundreds of veterans that are currently experiencing legal problems in Massachusetts.”
In Massachusetts, there are approx-imately 500,000 veterans, many of whom have pressing legal questions concerning benefits, family, employment and landlord/tenant issues.
“In the veteran community, there is always a need for services that are low- cost,” said Gail Cavanaugh-McAuliffe, a paralegal with the Department of Veterans Services. “There are so many claims that exist, agencies are overwhelmed.”
The Veterans Dial-A-Lawyer Program was made possible through a partnership between the MBA and the Massachusetts Department of Veteran Services, an organization that will continue to work with the MBA to provide another Veterans Dial-A-Lawyer in the spring.
“The mission of the MBA is to serve the legal profession and the public by promoting the administration of justice, legal education, professional excellence, diversity and unity in the legal profession and respect for the law,” said O’Neil. “The attorneys that participated in the September training and the October Dial-A-Lawyer Program will assist the MBA in meeting this mission. We would not be able to provide those worthwhile programs if not for the attorneys that volunteered for these initiatives and those that will be participating in future programming in 2008.”
The next Veterans Dial-A-Lawyer Program will be held on April 9.