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Spotlight on Pro Bono: Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network Launches Statewide

By Susan L. Zielke

November marked the official launch of a statewide hotline and network of civil legal services providers for veterans, service members, national guard, reservists, and their spouses and dependents. The hotline, 855-IL-AFLAN (855-452-3526), provides legal information and advice, brief services including the preparation and review of legal documents, and referrals to network partners. The hotline is staffed by attorneys who handle issues of discharge upgrades, benefits appeals, and civil legal problems like housing, consumer, and family.

The statewide network is using uniform eligibility guidelines of 80 percent of the Chicago Area Median Income; for a household of one, that figure is $44,250. Besides the hotline, the network includes CARPLS, Center for Disability & Elder Law, Chicago Volunteer Legal Services (CVLS), The John Marshall Law School, LAF, Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance, Loyola Law School, Prairie State Legal Services, and SIU Law School. This network provides coverage for qualified individuals throughout the state.

In Illinois, there are approximately 750,000 veterans, 20,000 active service members, and 13,000 members of the Illinois National Guard. There are over 20,000 dependents of service members deployed between 09/11/01 and 05/31/15 alone. The top civil legal needs include housing, family, and consumer issues, and specialized issues with VA benefits, appeals, and discharge upgrades.

The need is great, and will not be met by the hotline and funded partner staff alone. The volunteer work of pro bono attorneys is a great resource to serve those who have served us. In 2016, Land of Lincoln closed 864 civil legal aid cases for veterans, and an additional 590 cases so far in 2017. We closed 35 cases for veterans through pro bono volunteers, and have closed an additional 28 so far in 2017. There is room for more pro bono volunteers to serve, within Land of Lincoln’s territory (the 65 counties of central and southern Illinois) and throughout the state. And you may be able to provide pro bono assistance to veterans and active duty military and their families in types of cases that general civil legal providers do not handle.

If you are interested in volunteering or obtaining more information about this valuable resource, contact Zach Zarnow, at IEJF, at 312-938-2106. If you are in Land of Lincoln’s territory, please contact Austin Webbert in the Champaign office at 217-356-1351, ext. 125, and he will help you connect with the pro bono coordinator for your county.

Posted on December 5, 2017 by Sara Anderson
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