Thursday, March 21, 2013

Does My Veteran-Client Need A Social Worker?

Many people come to lawyers with problems that are more than simply legal problem, but spill over into a whole host of other areas. Despite what you may see on TV, lawyers are not marriage counselors, accountants or the parents of their clients; they can't straighten out all of a client's problems, much as this may be desirable.
One important benefit that veterans have earned by their service is access to a Veterans Administration Social Worker. The VA's Do I Need a Social Worker? page has a long list of problems that most lawyers have heard from their clients, and are not professionally equipped to handle:

  • If you are having marriage or family problems
  • If you would like help with moving to an assisted living facility, a board and care home or a nursing home.
  • If someone close to you has passed away and you want to talk about it
  • If you have problems with drinking or drug use
  • If you feel that someone is taking advantage of you or if you feel mistreated in a relationship
  • If you are a parent who feels overwhelmed with child care
  • If your parent or spouse is in failing health
  • If you are feeling stress because of your health or because your medical condition interferes with your daily activities
  • If you are feeling sad, depressed or anxious
  • If you really aren‘t sure what you need, but things just don‘t feel right
  • Financial or housing assistance

If any of these situations apply to your client or their family, they should ask to see the social worker at their VA Medical Center. Treat this as a referral to another attorney; you can and should continue representation for their legal needs, but should not try to handle issues for which you are not trained.
What if you or your client have an Other Than Honorable (OTH) Discharge?
Many veterans benefits are contingent on earning an honorable discharge; however, some are not. If you or your client have an OTH, don't assume that the VA won't help you; it's best to go and apply. Sometimes, if you have a good explanation for the OTH, you may gain access to appropriate services. For example, a servicemember with an otherwise good record who is OTH'd because of a single drug infraction might be able to get help with drug treatment. You will not know if you do not ask!

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