HAP is the only legal services organization in Philadelphia directly committed to serving homeless veterans. The Veterans Project is designed to help Philadelphia’s homeless veterans achieve income, self-sufficiency, and stability in housing, primarily through access to various veterans benefits programs.
Homeless veterans are confronted with many of the same legal obstacles that ordinary homeless people face. However, veterans are also confronted with a complex system of laws, regulations, and rules administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). With an in-depth understanding of veterans law, and years of advocating for veterans before the VA, our attorneys are uniquely positioned to help veterans obtain VA benefits where many other attorneys and veterans service organizations have failed.
HAP’s work with veterans began in 2001. Even though the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had not yet started, HAP sensed that homeless veterans were suffering, at least in part, due to a lack of attorneys practicing veterans law. As a result, HAP began a monthly legal clinic at the Veterans Multi-Service Center (VMC), a drop-in center for homeless veterans that provides hot meals and a full range of social services.
HAP’s instincts were immediately confirmed. Homeless veterans from all corners of the city began frequenting the clinic for assistance with their legal needs. Before long, many veterans who had been denied VA benefits for years – some since the Vietnam War – were approved for monthly compensation and VA medical care. In addition, since VA compensation benefits are typically more generous than other government benefit programs, many veterans received large lump sum back payments and ongoing monthly compensation for their service-connected injuries. This, in turn, has allowed many veterans to move into safe, affordable, and dignified housing.
Due to its tremendous success, HAP expanded its services to veterans beyond the VMC, operating clinics at two other homeless shelters for veterans, as well as Philadelphia’s VA Medical Center. HAP has also expanded its services to include discharge upgrades for veterans – often combat veterans – who have been unfairly discharged from the military with discharges that prevent them from receiving any VA benefits, including healthcare for service-connected conditions. To effectively provide all of these services, HAP has three attorneys on staff with expertise in veterans law.
HAP’s successful work with veterans has led to both local and national media recognition. It has also made HAP a go-to resource on veterans law for lawyers and law firms committed to providing pro bono legal services to veterans. HAP attorneys regularly conduct CLE courses for lawyers, and have travelled as far as Atlanta and Boston to train pro bono attorneys.
HAP does not discriminate among veterans. Young or old, combat or non-combat, honorably or dishonorably discharged, if they took an oath to serve the United States and are now homeless, we are here to help. No other legal services organization is better suited to ensuring that their rights are protected, and nobody else has achieved more success helping them obtain their VA benefits.
Veterans Law Blog