LEGAL QUESTIONSMM

Veterans Legal Services provides free legal aid services to income-eligible veterans residing in Massachusetts. We specialize in a wide range of civil legal matters, and work with Bay State veterans no matter their discharge status. 

Below are questions veterans frequently ask VLS, as well as some guidance our staff attorneys routinely provide. They are for general informational purposes only and are not legal advice. For more information about these issues, or something unique to you,
please contact Veterans Legal Services at (857) 317-4474
or info@veteranslegalservices.org.

Attorney Helping a Veteran

Q

What types of cases does VLS handle?

A

Our staff and pro bono attorneys provide a wide range of civil legal services, including in the areas of bankruptcy, child custody, child support, CORI issues/sealing criminal records, consumer debt, discharge upgrades, divorce, domestic violence protections, housing (evictions, security deposits, conditions issues), public benefits (SNAP, MassHealth, etc.), subsidized housing eligibility, Social Security, and state and federal veterans benefits.

Q

Can my landlord kick me out of my apartment without going to court?

A

No! In order to evict you, your landlord must first send you a Notice to Quit, which will give you a certain number of days before the landlord can then go to court to try to evict you. Only after a proper Notice to Quit has been properly served on you can the landlord then start a lawsuit to remove you from your apartment. You are legally required to vacate your apartment only if a judge decides you must do so.

Q

How long does it take to get a discharge upgrade?

A

The entire process can take more than a year. First, military and medical records must be obtained. That usually takes 4 or more months. After that, the discharge upgrade review process can take as long as 12 months or more before a decision is issued by the Discharge Review Board.

Q

Can I get a discharge upgrade even though it’s been more than 15 years since my discharge?

A

The general rule is that discharge upgrade applications must be filed within 15 years of discharge.
However, this 15-year limit can be waived if there is a good reason for the delay in applying.

Q

What is the Chapter 115 Program?

A

Chapter 115 is a public assistance benefit for low-income veterans and their dependents living in Massachusetts. Monthly financial benefits can be used for food, shelter (including back rent), and medical care. Chapter 115 is administered by your local city or town’s Veterans Services Officer in cooperation with the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services. Learn more about Chapter 115, and how to apply.

Q

Can Veterans Legal Services help me apply for benefits?

A

VLS is available to answer questions, offer counsel, and make referrals as necessary. However, we do not file for benefits on behalf of veterans. For information about filing a claim, contact the Department of Veterans Affairs. That said, VLS can and does help eligible Massachusetts veterans appeal benefits rulings.  

Q

Do service-connected disability benefits count as income for child support and alimony purposes? 

A

Yes. Service-connected disability benefits are considered a resource with which to pay familial support obligations in Massachusetts since they are not a means-tested benefit. However, courts cannot instruct the Veterans Benefits Administration to pay a portion of your service-connected disability benefits to your child’s parent or to your former (or soon to be former) spouse.