Veterans Column: Legal Aid Network for veterans
By Jerry Field
(This article is about the network which is a pro bono legal resource for Veterans, service members, and dependents in Illinois. It was written by Zach Zarnow.)
In just over a year and a half, The Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network (IL-AFLAN) has provided civil legal services, ranging from brief advice all the way to extended courtroom representation, to well over 4,000 veterans and service members. The network does so via a sophisticated centralized telephone hotline that covers the entire state, along with a network of regional providers.
At the moment, within five minutes of calling, a person seeking assistance from IL-AFLAN is speaking with an attorney and on the road to getting their problem solved. A wait will never exceed 10 minutes because the hotline will automatically schedule a call-back during times of unusually high call volume. Roughly 65% of the time, that hotline attorney can completely solve the caller’s problem over the phone, providing them with advice, instructions, and completed forms and documents.
When more than a phone call is needed, the appropriate IL-AFLAN member will receive an electronic referral containing the hotline attorney notes, any relevant documents, and the assurance that the client has already had the benefit of attorney consultation and that a warm handoff is being effectuated. The network is growing, and currently consists of 13 organizations, including law school clinics at John Marshall Law, Southern Illinois University Law, Loyola Law, traditional legal aid organizations like Land of Lincoln, Prairie State, and LAF, and pro bono volunteer attorneys through PILI and Chicago Volunteer Legal Services. A complete list of organizations is available on the IL-AFLAN website.
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Those seeking assistance are encouraged to call the hotline Monday through Friday from 9 am to 4:30 pm at 855-452-3526 (855-IL-AFLAN) when they have time to speak with an attorney and have any relevant documents in front of them. IL-AFLAN assists veterans, active duty military, national guard, reserves, and their spouse or dependents. IL-AFLAN solves civil legal problems like housing, consumer, and family law matters, as well as VA benefits appeals and discharge upgrades.
It is designed to assist those who cannot afford to hire an attorney and has income eligibility of 80% of Chicago Area Media Income (applies statewide). Assistance is available to all discharge characterizations except Dishonorable. More information is available at: www.ilaflan.org.
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South Korean Consul General Jong kook Lee recently presented Dr. Field with the Ambassador of PeaceGold Medal.
His nonmilitary career is varied as he was a film publicist, newspaper reporter and taught at the Illinois Institute of Technology for nearly 20 years. He was an instructor for the ROTC and currently manages the JROTC program for Leadership for JWV. As Executive Director of the Chicago Veterans Coordinating Committee, his efforts are directed toward supporting Veterans and Military members to avail themselves of the benefits provided by the Veterans Administration and other service organizations.
Dr. Field holds a doctorate in education from Loyola University Chicago, a Masters in Economics and Marketing from Roosevelt University and a Leadership certification from the U S Army.