Ahead of Veterans Day, AG also releases updated Military & Veteran Legal Resource Guide
OLYMPIA — In honor of Veterans Day on Sunday, Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced today new resources aimed at helping military service members and veterans deal with legal issues.
The pair of new resources will make it easier for military service members and veterans to connect to legal information and assistance.
For current military service members, the Attorney General’s Office has launched a new program — the Military Engagement & Directed Advocacy by Lawyers or MEDAL Program — to connect them with legal advice and representation. In addition, Ferguson has updated the Attorney General’s Military & Veteran Legal Resource Guide, which is aimed at helping both military personnel and veterans find the legal resources they need.
“We must ensure the men and women who serve our country in uniform get the legal assistance they need,” Ferguson said. “In recognition of their service to defend the Constitution and the rule of law, I am committed to building partnerships with other members of the legal community throughout the state so that we can meet this shared duty.”
Over the summer, the Attorney General’s Office surveyed current and former military personnel in Washington about their experiences with legal issues and seeking assistance. The survey confirmed that many military service members and veterans do not get legal help when they need it.
About 60 percent of survey respondents indicated that they experienced at least one legal issue in the past year, but most did not seek legal help, primarily due to financial constraints.
A full report on the Attorney General’s Office survey will be available soon.
New Civil Legal Assistance Program for Military Families
The Attorney General’s new MEDAL civil legal assistance program will connect Washington’s military families to volunteer attorneys that the office will be actively recruiting. Thanks to the efforts of volunteers who register with the program, the Attorney General will connect current military families to attorneys who can help with select legal problems, such as disputes with a landlord or a debt collector.
Ferguson’s Office of Military & Veteran Legal Assistance will manage the MEDAL Program. The new office was created by legislation requested by the Attorney General to promote and facilitate access to civil legal services for Washington’s current and former military service members. Specifically, the legislation authorizes the Attorney General’s Office of Military & Veteran Legal Assistance to recruit and train volunteer attorneys, maintain a registry of available services and volunteers, assess requests for legal assistance, and refer requests to registered volunteer attorneys and legal aid providers.
“Military service members, veterans and their families make tremendous sacrifices for our nation. They often face unique legal challenges, and providing greater access to legal services is an important way to show our support for all they do,” said Rep. Christine Kilduff, D-University Place, who sponsored the legislation creating the new program. “With Joint Base Lewis-McChord part of the district I represent, I deeply appreciate the work of the Attorney General to train and recruit the volunteer attorneys who will help military families tackle legal issues they might otherwise have to confront on their own.”
Military families qualify for assistance from the new MEDAL Program if they meet the program’s income requirements and other eligibility criteria.
Military & Veteran Legal Resource Guide
The Attorney General’s Office today also released an updated version of its Military & Veteran Legal Resource Guide. The guide is designed to improve knowledge and understanding about a number of federal and state laws specifically applicable to current or former military service members. When military service members or veterans do not have enough or accurate information about these laws, they are not able to take advantage of the benefits and protections the law affords in appropriate circumstances.
“The Attorney General’s Military & Veteran Legal Resource Guide provides helpful, easy to understand information about many of the legal protections and benefits that exist to honor the service of our veterans,” said Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs Director Alfie Alvarado. “It is a valuable resource for veterans in our state seeking legal help or just wanting to learn more about their rights.”
Updates to the guide, originally published in 2013, include explanations of new or recently amended laws, a fresh visual redesign, and restructured chapters to make it easier for military personnel and veterans to locate information about the various legal issues they may face.
More details about the MEDAL Program and its eligibility requirements are available online, where a copy of the updated Military & Veterans Legal Resource Guide is also available for download.
The resources announced today are part of Ferguson’s Military & Veterans Initiative, an ongoing effort to stand up for Washington’s military service members and veterans. It involves engaging and educating military service members and veterans about their rights and resources available, vigorously enforcing the legal protections within the Attorney General’s authority, and promoting and facilitating access to civil legal services.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Dan Jackson, Acting Communications Director, (360) 753-2716; firstname.lastname@example.org