FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: Margarite Wypychowski, 773-458-8961
Hotline and Network of Legal Support Services Will Provide Critical Help to the Nearly One Million Illinois Veterans and Service Members
(Chicago, IL)……In advance of Veterans Day, judicial, government and civic leaders gathered today to announce the launch of the Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network (IL-AFLAN), the first-ever statewide hotline and network of legal support services for Illinois veterans, active-duty military, National Guard, reservists, and their dependents. Through the IL-AFLAN, veterans and military personnel can obtain free legal help for urgent family, housing and consumer problems, as well as issues such as discharge upgrades and benefit appeals.
“Illinois is home to nearly one million veterans and active duty service members. We have a responsibility to protect their rights much like they have fought to protect our rights,” said Trish McGill, U.S. Army Veteran and Chair of the Illinois Access to Civil Justice Council. “The Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network will help our veterans and service members resolve their legal problems and preserve their health, safety and financial independence.”
The free hotline is 855-452-3526 or 855-IL-AFLAN and is staffed by attorneys Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. Serving as the entry point to the IL-AFLAN, the hotline will offer legal advice and brief services and then connect veterans and military members to legal aid providers near their community. Nine organizations, spanning every major area of the state, have received grants to provide legal aid services as part of the IL-AFLAN.
“Legal aid is one of the largest areas of unmet need for Illinois veterans,” said Erica Jeffries, Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. “The Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network will make a real difference in the lives of struggling veterans, helping them overcome crises like consumer fraud and illegal eviction and get back on their feet.”
While a few other states have veterans legal aid initiatives, Illinois is the largest state to combine a hotline with a legal help provider network. To be eligible for services under the IL-AFLAN, veterans and active duty military members need to have an income less than 80 percent of the Chicago area median income. For a family of four, this translates into $63,200 annually.
“Our justice system can only function fairly when everyone – particularly our most vulnerable – have access to quality legal assistance,” said Judge Mary K. Rochford, Fifth Division, First District Appellate Court of Cook County and Chair of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice. “Providing legal aid for veterans and active duty service members, whose legal issues often connect to their military service, will increase the efficiency of the court system and benefit everyone.”
According to recent studies by the American Bar Association, Loyola University and the Veterans Administration, one of the greatest areas of vulnerability for veterans and military members is consumer issues, particularly high-rate financing schemes that can leave a family home in foreclosure. Housing and family law issues are also areas of significant need.
The IL-AFLAN was created through the passage of the Access to Justice Act by the Illinois General Assembly in 2013. The Act instituted a temporary $2 surcharge to civil filing fees to fund the creation of the statewide legal aid hotline and network of supporting services. Collection of the fee began in September 2015 and ends in 2020.
Under the Act, the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF), which distributes the State’s annual budget appropriation for civil legal aid, was charged with the development of the IL-AFLAN. Working with the Illinois Access to Civil Justice Council, the IEJF conducted an assessment of veterans legal needs and then oversaw the competitive grants process to select the nine organizations providing legal aid services as part of the Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network.
Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network Organizations
Prairie State Legal Services
Bloomington, Galesburg, Joliet, Kankakee, McHenry, Ottawa, Peoria, Rockford, Rock Island, St. Charles, Waukegan and Wheaton
Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation
Alton, Champaign, East St. Louis, Carbondale and Springfield
Chicago Volunteer Legal Services (CVLS)
Southern Illinois University School of Law Veterans Legal Assistance Program
Perry, Franklin, Hamilton, White, Jackson, Williamson, Saline, Gallatin, Union, Johnson, Pope, Hardin, Alexander, Pulaski and Massac Counties
Center for Disability and Elder Law (CDEL)
For more information on the IL-AFLAN, please visit iejf.org/illinois-armed-forces-legal-aid-network.