Service Members and Veterans’ Legal Assistance Project
In 2011, Penn Law students founded the Service Members and Veterans Legal Assistance Project (“SVLAP”) to provide targeted and useful resources to Philadelphia’s veterans and service-members in need of civil legal assistance. SVLAP also supports attorneys in Philadelphia who have made it a priority to serve Veterans in our community.
SVLAP partnered with the Philadelphia Veterans Court, a part of Philadelphia Municipal Court, and the Philadelphia Bar Association Military Assistance Program (“MAP”) in the fall of 2012 to offer pro bono legal assistance for veterans with civil legal issues. Oftentimes, veterans return home from service to find their life in disarray. Not only may veterans find criminal allegations pending against them, but also credit card liens, child custody issues, suspended driver’s licenses and landlord-tenant disputes. SVLAP and MAP’s goal is to aid veterans in sorting through their legal issues so they can focus on reordering their lives as civilians.
Penn Law students play an important role in this process. After completing SVLAP training, students attend Veteran’s Court and conduct one-on-one client intake. Students speak with the veterans to spot legal issues and gather data about the common legal problems they face. Frequently, a veteran may not realize they have a legal issue or understand their rights. After speaking with a student, many times veterans realize they need help in getting their lives back in order. After the intake interview, the student will submit the veteran’s information and request for legal assistance to MAP. MAP then pairs the veterans with specialized attorneys who volunteer their services. SVLAP volunteers also provide veterans with legal resources on a number of civil legal issues, including landlord-tenant disputes, traffic court, child support and custody concerns, and housing information.