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Veterans Services

Major General Ernest A. and Marilyn Bedke Veterans Law Center

Bay Area Legal Services is in the process of raising funds to fully staff a team of attorneys who will handle only veterans’ legal issues and who will be experts in the areas of law most relevant to veterans. The team will be known as the Major General Ernest A. and Marilyn Bedke Veterans Law Center in order to recognize the generosity and ongoing support of the family for which the team is named.

Bay Area Legal Services assists more than 1,000 veterans in the Tampa Bay area each year through our veteran support programs and collaborations, all projects of the Major General Ernest A. and Marilyn Bedke Veterans Law Center.

Why provide legal services to veterans?

  • The need for legal aid for veterans is significant. Florida has the third largest population of veterans in the nation, and our five-county service area is home to nearly 315,000 veterans. Of these local veterans, more than 20,000 live at or below the federal poverty level. Most cannot afford to hire an attorney.
  • Low-income, disabled, and homeless veterans often face legal problems that cannot be resolved without an attorney. Without legal help, these veterans may not be able to maintain employment, keep their families stable, obtain permanent housing, or secure the veterans benefits which were promised to them when they joined the armed forces to serve our country.
  • Veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and substance abuse are particularly vulnerable to the stress caused by unresolved legal problems. Without legal help, veterans can become isolated, depressed, homeless, and even suicidal.

How can veterans receive legal help from Bay Area Legal Services?

  • Veterans can apply for legal assistance by calling our Veterans Legal Helpline: 813.232.1343 (Residents of Hillsborough County); 1.800.625.2257 (Residents of Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties); 1.800.955.8771 (TTY).
    • Veterans can also apply online through Florida Online Intake.
    • Veterans and their family members in Hillsborough and Pasco counties will be given appointments with our designated Helpline attorneys. Veterans residing elsewhere in our service area may apply for assistance through the same phone number or online and will be offered appointments through our Legal Aid Line.
  • Veterans can be referred to BALS by the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program of St. Vincent de Paul of South Pinellas, Inc. The SSVF program makes direct referrals to BALS.
  • Veterans can apply for assistance and receive advice at an on-site legal clinic at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital. The legal clinic is a pro bono project of the law firm DLA Piper with support provided by BALS. The clinic is scheduled monthly, managed by DLA Piper, and staffed by volunteer attorneys. Appointments are required but walk-ins will be accepted if time permits. View all free legal clinics in VA facilities.
  • Veterans at Veterans Stand Down events can receive legal information from BALS attorneys who regularly attend the events.
  • Eligible veterans enrolled in the VA healthcare system may receive legal assistance through our medical-legal partnership (MLP) at the C.W. Young VA Medical Center at Bay Pines. The Center’s MLP is staffed by a full-time BALS attorney and provides a wide variety of civil legal aid services, including veterans benefits, Social Security Disability, family law, guardianship, landlord-tenant disputes, and elder law.

2018 Veterans Outreach Court

  • The 13th Judicial Circuit will host the 2018 Veterans Outreach Court for homeless and low-income Veterans on Friday, November 9, 2018, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the James A Haley Veteran’s Hospital Primary Care Annex, 13515 Lake Terrace Lane in Tampa. Veterans who attend may be eligible for the reduction or forgiveness of fines associated with past cases that are hindering them from getting their driver’s license back. Participants must register in advance by the deadline Friday, October 19, 2018. Click here for a downloadable flyer. More information can be found on the Hillsborough County Clerk website where Veterans may also register.