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Clients of VA-Housed Legal Clinics: Legal and Psychosocial Needs When Seeking Services and Two Months Later

July, 2020
Article:

This research sought to understand why veterans used VA civil legal services, and what the consequences of using the services were. The study used data from 61 veterans, who were clients at two VA-housed legal clinics. Additional data was collected from 80% (49) of the initial veteran sample two months later, to understand if veterans were satisfied with the services and if any improvements could be made. The study found that the most common reason for accessing legal services was help obtaining VA benefits. Follow up data identified that few of the veterans felt their legal needs had been met but were satisfied with the service they received.

Abstract

Veterans often need civil legal services, yet little is known about veterans’ use and consequences of these services. This study examined veterans seeking legal services at VA-housed legal clinics. Baseline data from 61 clients of two VA-housed legal clinics were used to identify clients’ legal needs and psychosocial characteristics. Data collected from 49 (80%) of the same clients two months later were used to address clients’ improvement and satisfaction after receiving legal services. At baseline, clients reported a mean of 6.0 (SD = 4.2) legal needs, with the most common being help obtaining VA benefits (87%). Clients represented a vulnerable population in that most had an extensive criminal history (e.g., had been arrested, charged, and incarcerated) and multiple health care needs (had a chronic medical condition, had recently received treatment in an emergency department, and had received psychological treatment due to significant psychological symptoms). At follow-up, clients reported a mean of 4.4 (SD = 3.8) legal needs. Tests to identify changes between baseline and follow-up on legal needs, housing arrangement, psychological symptoms, and substance use yielded few significant results. Most participants did not receive additional help with their legal matters after the baseline appointment. At follow-up, clients reported that few of their legal needs were met but also that they were mostly satisfied with the legal services they received. Findings suggest that because clients may need more intensive legal intervention of longer duration to resolve their legal needs and achieve better housing and health status, VA-housed legal clinics require greater resources and expansion.

Full Reference

Timko, C., Tsai, J., Taylor, E., Smelson, D., Blonigen, D., Nash, A. and Finlay, A., 2020. Clients of VA-Housed Legal Clinics: Legal and Psychosocial Needs When Seeking Services and Two Months Later. Journal of Veterans Studies, 6(1), pp.239–249. DOI: http://doi.org/10.21061/jvs.v6i1.167

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