Veterans Legal Services promotes equity by providing free and comprehensive civil legal aid services to economically disadvantaged military veterans in Massachusetts. VLS helps former service members obtain the stability and financial security necessary to live the healthy, happy, and dignified lives they deserve.
VLS partners with veterans' services organizations throughout Massachusetts because legal aid is an essential service in the holistic care of veterans. VLS specializes in eviction/homelessness prevention, helping veterans access financial and medical benefits, appealing discharge orders, and promoting healthy family relationships by securing equitable divorce, child custody, parenting time, and child support arrangements. VLS is an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and is not part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or any other government agency.
Founded in 1991 out of Boston College Law School, the organization began by working exclusively through what was then the New England Center for Homeless Veterans in Boston. Veterans Legal Services continued to grow through the years, staffed by full-time attorneys and an ever-expanding team of pro bono supporters.
Today, VLS serves roughly 900 veterans per year and is the leading legal services organization in Massachusetts devoted exclusively to supporting the civil legal needs of military veterans.
VLS kept me from drowning in this vast legal system and gave me back my dignity.
— Tom, Marine Corps veteran
DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION
Diversity, equity, and inclusion is at the heart of VLS's mission and work, and a DEI lens is brought to all aspects of VLS. VLS's board of directors reflects the population VLS serves and is diverse in age, financial capacity, gender, lived experience, race, sexual orientation, and skillset.
All veterans served by VLS are economically disadvantaged and a significant percentage are from historically marginalized/ underrepresented populations. Approximately one quarter of VLS clients identify as Black/African American and Latinx, even though only 7% of Massachusetts veterans are people of color. Approximately 14% of clients are women even though women make up only 6% of all veterans in Massachusetts. And while about 20% of Massachusetts veterans have a service-connected disability, more than 56% of VLS clients have a diagnosed disability. VLS works intentionally to ensure that populations that have been historically underserved have access to justice, and it also works to remove systemic barriers that impact these populations.
At the staff level, VLS is women-led and leadership prioritizes DEI in recruitment, retention, and operations. VLS has a small but diverse team, approximately half of whom identify as part of an underrepresented group. VLS has a DEI officer on staff who continually provides resources and offers support to all team members to help ensure a welcoming and inclusive workplace for all. VLS's objective is to attract and keep talented team members to best serve our veterans.
HOW VLS WORKS
BY THE NUMBERS
VLS meets with veterans on-site at area shelters, skilled nursing homes, VA medical centers, and treatment courts. In addition, VLS works with community partners, including supportive services providers and government officials to ensure veterans and those who support them are aware of VLS services.
VLS provides direct legal representation to veterans throughout Massachusetts, both in-person and over the phone. Services range from advising veterans on how to resolve matters on their own to representing veterans in court and before agencies such as the VA.
In addition, VLS plays a leading role in high-impact state and federal appellate cases involving the welfare of at-risk veterans.
VLS trains law student volunteers from all six area law schools to ensure that the next generation of lawyers are informed about veterans’ needs. These students assist with VLS client representation and often join VLS as volunteer attorneys after graduation.
VLS also trains private practice attorneys and community advocates on veterans’ legal needs through courses at Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education and area bar associations.
Veterans with a disability
Over the age of 60
Veterans of color
(Only 7% of veteran population in MA are POC)
(Only 6% of veteran
population in MA are women)