In 2017, NYLAG opened the nation’s first legal clinic to exclusively serve women veterans.
A staggering 20% of our clients are survivors of rape in the military. Nationally, 1 in 4 female veterans report military sexual assault. And we know this crime is underreported. Often when survivors do report, their commands punish them in retaliation. For many survivors, obtaining federal benefits for their resulting trauma is the only semblance of justice they will ever see, and attorneys are crucial to helping them obtain benefits. Yet funding for free legal services is lacking, and Congress has prevented the VA from funding these services.
Today the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs unanimously passed the Homeless Veterans Legal Services Act, which, if it becomes law, would enable the VA to fund services like NYLAG’s legal clinics within VA hospitals, including our clinic that exclusively serves women veterans. Women are the fastest-growing group in the military, but they are also the fastest-growing group of homeless veterans—the rate of woman veteran homelessness has more than doubled since 2006. This is the furthest this bill has ever gotten and it must be passed soon. Without it, our clinic is at risk of closing.
NYLAG joined 40 other organizations that work with veterans to voice our support of the bill. We applaud the Committee and call on the full House to pass the Homeless Veterans Legal Services Act to fund these critical services.
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