CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - Illinois veterans, active-duty military, members of the National Guard, reservists, and their dependents now have access to the Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network (IL-AFLAN).
It's the first-ever statewide hotline and network of legal support services available to servicemen and women in the state. With nearly one million veterans and active-duty military in the state of Illinois, this legal aid applies to most of them.
Bill Slider, an American Legion Veteran Service Officer, helps veterans on the daily basis with many of their needs, but often ran into this problem
"where do you send these vets and their dependents, and survivor when they actually need some legal advice? There's a void there, again, with what we can assist with," Slider explains.
AFLAN solves that problem by providing civil legal services to veterans and active duty service members.
Zach Zarnow, the program director, explains the goal of the network. "Trying to solve these problems on your own is really challenging it's difficult to navigate the legal system without assistance. And so this program will do that for our service members and veterans."
So, every veteran does not have legal problems, but the ones that do often fall in this category, Zarnow explains, "The top three issues are civil legal assistance for a landlord/tenant, family and consumer issues and as well as that, there are also veteran specific issues like VA benefits appeals and discharge upgrades."
AFLAN started a tester run a couple months ago and has already done about 500 cases.
"Most people that serve in the military have some type of trauma," explains Lucas Park, a disabled veteran. "Whether or not it's PTSD levels or something along those lines…it's a different lifestyle and it causes a shift and the transition can raise a lot of problems. Creditor issues, consumer housing problems, landlords, divorces, things like that. And without the ability of having a project like AFLAN …these people wouldn't be able to get any assistance or advice at all."
To qualify, your have to have 80% Chicago Area median income or less, which is about $63,000 for a family of four.
Southern Illinois University's School of Law's Veterans Legal Assistance Program and Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation have received grants to provide legal aid services as part of the program.
The program at SIU will focus on helping veterans with discharge upgrades and Veterans Affairs benefit appeals, according to a release from the university.
The Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation will work to develop a medical legal partnership with the Marion VA Medical Center.
If you have a legal problem, give them a call. The hotline number is 855-452-3526 or 855-IL-AFLAN. You can call to talk to an attorney free of charge about: Discharge upgrades, benefits appeals, civil legal problems like family, housing and consumer issues.