MISSION STATEMENT – MCBA VETERANS COMMITTEE
The mission of the MCBA Veterans Committee is to address the unmet legal needs of this community’s veterans and collaborate with other agencies in delivering services and support to veterans in areas such as homelessness, suicide prevention, and physical and emotional disabilities. The committee will do so by: (i) regularly meeting and sharing ideas among its members and with other service agencies; (ii) promoting and utilizing a centrally located delivery system like NYServes to seamlessly integrate all local service agencies in supporting each individual veteran who is entered into its database; (iii) recruiting volunteer attorneys to help veterans in pro bono matters or reduced fee situations and to support local legal service agencies in their efforts to provide services to veterans; (iv) providing or promoting seminars that will help address certain unmet legal needs of local veterans and providing or promoting training through seminars or CLEs for those willing to volunteer to assist local veterans in pro bono matters or reduced fee situations; and (v) joining its local efforts with those of the national and state bar associations.
Both the American and the New York State Bar Associations have taken action to address veterans’ legal needs. The ABA has formed a veteran task force and undertaken a national effort to recruit volunteers to help veterans obtain VA benefits in selected jurisdictions. In an effort to improve the availability of legal services for low-income veterans across the state, the NYSBA has formed a permanent veterans committee within the Association and issued a report that documents the statewide need for specialized legal services that are tailored to the special needs of veterans and mindful of military culture. The categories of needs the NYSBA identified are the following: wills/health proxies/POA; service-related issues such as disability claims/pensions/discharge-upgrades; family/matrimonial; tax/debt/bankruptcy; and employment/criminal record issues.
Over seventy thousand veterans reside in the Rochester metro area, which is one of the highest per capita concentrations of veterans, relative to its total area population, in the country and the highest in New York State (Dept. of Veterans Affairs Estimates of Veteran Populations www.va.gov/vetdata/). Unfortunately, veterans have a disproportionate share of social-legal problems that are reflected in high rates of veteran homelessness, suicide, and physical and emotional disabilities. Very often the problems experienced by our veterans are related to their service to our country. Because our area has such a high concentration of veterans, the local legal community has a unique opportunity to take a leadership role in demonstrating ways the organized bar can make an impact in addressing the legal problems facing many of our veterans.
Chair: Dr. Rashid Muhammad
The MCBA Veterans Committee believes that the ideal legal delivery system locally for veterans would place volunteer service by the MCBA membership front and center in the solution to addressing these unmet needs. The Veterans Committee will plan and coordinate MCBA’s efforts with those of the Telesca Center legal service providers and various veterans groups and help Identify volunteers for various legal issues and veterans outreach events. The Veterans Committee will also join local efforts with those of the national and state bars.