Website to help military members with legal issues

Posted Nov. 24, 2010, at 8:51 p.m.

The first website in the nation designed to focus on the legal needs and rights of those serving in the military, veterans and their families was unveiled last week at a White House conference on access to justice.

The website was developed by Portland-based Pine Tree Legal Assistance, the statewide nonprofit that provides legal advice to low-income Mainers and a similar organization in Arkansas, according to a press release issued last Friday. The Legal Service Corp. in Washington, D.C., funded the development of the website.

The site includes user-friendly legal information and self-help tools, including videos and interactive documents related to common legal problems such as divorce, foreclosure and disability benefits, according to Pine Tree. It also provides referral information about resources available through the military, veteran services and legal aid programs. The search engine allows people to seek information according to legal problem, military status and state of residence.

“Pine Tree is honored to receive this recognition and to be part of an initiative to provide critical legal services to veterans, members of the military and their families,” Nan Heald, executive director of PTLA, said Tuesday.

Maine’s legal service provider was chosen to serve as the lead agency for the project due to its national reputation in developing other websites with high quality legal information written in plain English, according to Heald.

“There are many laws that pertain only to those in military service, veterans and their families,” she said. “In doing our research to build the website, we found that information wasn’t gathered in one place on the Web.”

Heald said Tuesday the idea for a website devoted to the needs of service members, veterans and their families came from U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud.

“About two years ago, he and I had a conversation about the large number of calls his offices were receiving from military personnel, veterans and their families with legal questions,” she said.

That conversation led to a technology grant awarded last year by LSC.

“Deployments are extremely tough on our service members and their families,” Michaud said Tuesday. “But things can be made even more difficult when legal questions arise. My office works on a variety of cases on behalf of our veterans and active duty military, and we’ve received many calls from Mainers seeking legal assistance for their family or their deployed loved ones.

“That’s why it’s so important that this new resource has been established,” he continued. “It will help our men and women in uniform gain access to valuable legal information on the issues that are affecting them and their families. I am proud of the leadership role that Maine’s Pine Tree Legal has played in the creation of this new website. I’m confident that it will make a real difference to those that have given up so much to serve their country.”

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