The Oklahoma Bar Association’s Oklahoma Lawyers for America’s Heroes Program began six years ago with the battle cry of “Thank you is not enough” to help service members and veterans with their legal needs. More than 4,000 military heroes have been helped by 712 volunteer lawyers, who have donated more than $2.8 million in free legal services.
OBA President Garvin Isaacs said, “As we celebrate Veterans Day this year, Oklahoma lawyers are honored to assist those who fight and have fought for freedom. Service members have made sacrifices for us – many putting their lives on the line – so they deserve help when they return.”
The program provides one-on-one legal advice to active duty, reserve, guard or veteran service men and women who do not have access to the legal services they need. To qualify for the program, financial circumstances are a consideration.
Nearly half of the legal problems service members face involve domestic issues such as divorce, adoption and paternity. About 14 percent of the legal assistance given is regarding assorted issues, such as employment and military-related disputes, followed by criminal matters. Other legal needs involve debts, disability, estate planning and probate, personal injury and real estate.
Program Coordinator Gisele Perryman said, “Often these individuals call in because they’ve received notification of legal action, and they are desperate because they don’t know where to go next or what to do. Sometimes I can pair them up with an attorney quickly, but often they have to wait or make do without legal help because the need is so great.”
Another service the program provides is a collection of forms and general information on a variety of legal consumer topics called a “Legal Clinic in a Box,” designed to make it easy for a lawyer or county bar association to organize a free clinic to help veterans anywhere in the state.
Also lawyers on the OBA Military Assistance Committee often partner with other organizations to give free legal advice at legal clinics held before a unit deploys and again when they return. The Heroes Program reference materials are handed out during the clinics.
Perryman said, “The service members are very grateful for the legal assistance, which can be life changing for them. Being able to give back is an honor and a privilege.”
For more information about the program or to sign up to become a volunteer lawyer, visit www.okbar.org/heroes or call 416-7086.