The Invisible Battlefield: Veterans Facing Health-Harming Legal Needs in Civilian Life

By: Rishi Manchanda, Shannon Murphy, Ellen Lawton and Margaret Middleton. Published by: National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership. Published in June 2016.

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This study from the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership investigates the legal needs of veterans.

Highlights include:

  • Service members’ military experiences, both positive and negative, impact who they become after leaving the service. After bravely serving our country in the United States and abroad, service members who were in combat or experienced traumatic situations may have an array of mental and physical health concerns. Upon returning to civilian life, it is our turn to serve them.
  • Within the veteran population, at the intersection of mental health and poverty, we find thousands of individuals with complex needs. While these needs may manifest in different ways, many of them require help from a lawyer. Civil legal problems from threatened evictions to other-than-honorable discharges from the military are often the greatest obstacles to a veteran’s health, housing, stability, and productivity. Yet while civil legal needs among veterans are prevalent, they often remain invisible.
  • Medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) are poised to help address the unmet legal needs of veterans by integrating civil legal aid services into existing health care services for veterans. MLPs break down the silos between legal stakeholders and the health care team to address veteran access to: healthy housing, VA benefits, an honorable military discharge status, and employment. While many veterans still face invisible battlefields in their civilian lives and lack support for their complex legal needs, MLPs for veterans are growing in number and expertise showing great promise for both confronting and preventing veterans’ legal barriers to health and well-being. (p. 3)


Categories: Delivery systems (e.g., MLPs), Health, Health, Individual Rights, Legal Aid Practitioners, Medical-Legal Partnerships, National, Policymakers and Funders, Researchers and Academics, Veterans

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