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Veterans Initiatives Include New Section

Veterans Initiatives Include New Section

Communities across our state seek to address the legal needs of veterans, servicemembers and their families, and the North Carolina Bar Association supports these efforts as a founding member of the North Carolina Veterans Pro Bono Network, along with the NC Equal Access to Justice Commission and the National Veterans Legal Services Project.

Charlotte Stewart, assistant director of public service and pro bono activities, coordinates the NC Veterans Pro Bono Network (VPBN). In recognition of Veterans Day, she traveled across the state during the week of Veterans Day, conducting outreach and engaging key stakeholders in innovative solutions to veterans’ unmet needs.

Her first stop on Monday, Nov. 9, was Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte to represent NC LEAP and the VPBN at “A New Mission: Military Women as Entrepreneurs.” The event connected women veterans with resources for starting and growing their small businesses, and featured keynote speaker Stephanie Brown of the Rosie Network.

She spoke candidly about the challenges faced by women in business, highlighting the need to redefine “success” as more than mere financial gain. Rather, success should be measured by relationships, community and fruitful collaboration. Those interested in supporting military family-owned businesses can find them by searching Rosie’s List.

After dropping by Charlotte-area legal services provider Legal Services of Southern Piedmont to discuss their Veterans Legal Services Project, Stewart drove to Greensboro to attend a Veterans Town Hall event convened by U.S. House Representative Alma Adams. 

There, veterans and advocates voiced their frustrations and concerns as well as success stories about getting the services they need. Rep. Adams provided her veterans hotline as a resource for those experiencing difficulty navigating the benefits system: call (202) 225-7475 or email VAHelpNC@mail.house.gov.

On Wednesday, Nov. 11, Stewart returned to her alma mater, the UNC Chapel Hill School of Law, to attend a talk by Vice Admiral James W. Crawford, III, Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Navy. After providing a compelling history of the impact of racial segregation in the Armed Forces, Crawford gave advice to law students on diversity, professionalism and handling interpersonal conflict. Afterward, several students spoke with the Vice Admiral for specific advice as they embark on a legal career in military service.

Later in the week, Stewart joined service providers and community based organizations in Wilmington in planning their annual Stand Down event. A Stand Down is a community fair where homeless veterans are provided a hot meal, clothing and fellowship while also being connected to local resources and services.

There is strong interest in developing a legal project similar to last May’s Veterans’ Amnesty Day event, which was piloted by Judicial Districts 5 and 13 at the New Hanover County Courthouse and recently replicated in Buncombe County.

The final stop on the Veterans Day Week tour was Fayetteville, where Stewart met with court officials to discuss ways to address servicemembers’ criminal justice involvement in the context of public safety and military readiness.

At the North Carolina Bar Association, we are committed to creating opportunities for members of the legal profession to participate in these endeavors. This fall’s key initiative is the formation of the Military & Veterans Law Section, which will bring together NCBA members and affiliates who have a special interest in military law or veteran-focused legal services.

The Military & Veterans Law Section will serve as a coordinating body for NCBA activities and initiatives impacting military and veterans. Lawyers, paralegals, social workers, veterans service officers and members of veterans service organizations are encouraged to join the new section to share their insights and experience, ensuring that legal professionals are fully informed as they work to provide our servicemembers and veterans the assistance they deserve.

Click here to join now; section membership will be good through June 30, 2016. Contact Charlotte Stewart at vets@ncbar.org with questions or ideas.