The new LegalHealth VA Project brings legal assistance directly to the hospitals, where many veteran patients already receive ongoing care in a setting that is familiar and convenient.

In October, LegalHealth established onsite legal clinics at two Veteran Administration hospitals, where many patients receive ongoing care, to provide comprehensive legal services to veterans who cannot afford them. The project is made possible through a grant from the Robin Hood Foundation, which since 1988 has been helping veterans living in poverty in New York City. The onsite legal clinics are held weekly at the Veterans Affairs New York Harbor Healthcare System in Manhattan, and the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx.

“Too many vets face economic hardship in our country, but in particular those with chronic health conditions. By working with healthcare professionals who understand the needs of their patients, in a setting that is familiar and convenient, we can provide legal services that will improve their lives, and the lives of their families,” said Randye Retkin, Director and Founder, LegalHealth . “We are most grateful to Robin Hood for their support and applaud the leadership work they do to help and heal veterans.”

According to Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Kenneally, a longtime NYLAG attorney with extensive experience in Social Security and benefits law who is now devoted full time to the VA Hospitals Project, veterans too often face enormous obstacles to achieving economic self-sufficiency and improving the quality of their lives. Those with mental or physical health problems are even more likely to be homeless or unemployed. Many suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression and require specialized support to navigate the complex web of courts and government agencies in order to obtain the benefits and services to which they are entitled.

At the weekly onsite clinics Kenneally, supported by part-time and volunteer legal staff, assists VA hospital patients with housing, social security disability and other benefit issues, family law issues and advance planning. The NYLAG team works with healthcare professionals and coordinates with social workers and case managers. Home visits and consultations will be provided to clients who are too ill or disabled to travel, and NYLAG will offer training to healthcare professionals to educate them on effective patient advocacy. The clinics serve newly returning vets as well as vets from earlier conflicts.