Service Members and Veterans’ Legal Assistance Project
In 2011, Penn Law students founded the Servicemembers and Veterans Legal Assistance Project (“SVLAP”) to provide targeted and useful resources to Philadelphia’s veterans and servicemembers in need of civil legal assistance. SVLAP also supported attorneys in the Philadelphia Bar Association who have made it a priority to serve Veterans in our community. 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.
SVLAP partnered with the Philadelphia Bar Association Military Assistance Project (“MAP”) in the spring of 2013 to offer pro bono legal assistance for veterans with economic hardship issues. Penn Law students play an important role in this process. After completing SVLAP training, students help veterans in financial distress by performing client intake, attending initial client meetings, putting together bankruptcy petitions when necessary, and seeing the bankruptcy process through to its completion. All of this takes place under the supervision of an attorney.
Beginning in 2016 students will also be aiding veterans in need of discharge upgrades and VA Benefits/Claims assistance. This area of assistance is frequently cited as the biggest need amongst the veteran community.
Additionally, how do we change the name of our project? Several members and board members have expressed interest in this. SVLAP is quite the mouthful. Perhaps this is something we can get the ball rolling on for next year, but we would like to know the process.
Lastly, a few times a month, MAP conducts in-take interviews with potential clients at the Veterans Multi-Service Center in Coatesville. Volunteers with SVLAP are encouraged to participate in the in-take process as it gives students the opportunity to have face-to-face interaction with potential clients the entire time. Students learn how to interview potential clients and the types of questions they should ask depending on the legal issue. The VMC however is a little over an hour from school by car. I understand from the Practice Area meeting that transportation reimbursement is something under consideration by TPIC. I wanted to know if at this point, there is a way for us to reimburse students or not, so that I can inform the group accurately.