Serving Those Who Served: Understanding the Legal Needs of Maine's Veteran Community
Executive Summary (full report)
Since 1967, Pine Tree Legal Assistance has advocated for the rights of Mainers with low incomes, including veterans, by providing advice, information, and legal representation in civil proceedings. While some national data about legal need among veterans is available through CHALENG surveys administered by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, to date no organization in the state of Maine has studied the specific legal needs of its veteran population. To gain a more accurate understanding of this issue, Pine Tree Legal collaborated with the Maine VISTA Project to survey veterans and social service providers in Maine about veteran legal issues.
The survey, which was distributed through a variety of networks, asked respondents to (1) identify legal issues they or their clients had experienced in thepast year, (2) report on their likelihood to contact legal services themselves or refer a client to legal services, and (3) rank their familiarity with a variety of legal issues (Appendix A, B).
Pine Tree Legal examined the survey findings in conjunction with data from the organization’s six regional offices, which serve veteran households from all sixteen of Maine’s counties. The findings of this investigation can be summarized as follows:
- Most Maine veterans surveyed indicated they experienced a legal problem in the past 12 months;
- Veterans are unlikely to contact legal services themselves; and
- Social service providers self-reported that they have a limited understanding of most legal issues.
As the state with the third highest population of veterans per capita,ii Maine must think creatively about how it can best support those who have served in the country’s armed forces. Many veterans face homelessness, poverty, unstable family lives, education challenges, and job problems after they return from deployment. Developing the most effective response to these issues will require social service providers to fully understand the current met and unmet legal needs of the veteran population. Legal aid is an essential partner in addressing those issues.
Get full report here (.pdf file)