Thousands of New Jersey female veterans and servicewomen may qualify for free legal help - if only they can be found. So VLJ is
conducting a survey to track down the women, many of whom have moved or are reticent to seek help from veterans' and social services organizations.
The survey and related legal programs are funded by a $25,000 grant from the Jewish Women's Foundation of New Jersey. It is intended to provide legal assistance to military women who face different challenges than their male counterparts: fewer support networks, higher post-service unemployment and sexual trauma during their service.
"We know that women have unique legal needs post-military service and that it is important to have programs to meet those needs. The first step is identifying those who served and how we can best provide help. That is VLJ's focus at this time," says Karen Sacks, VLJ's Executive Director.
And the number of women at issue is increasing, making legal help even more needed. Women now constitute 14 percent of the military, up from 8 percent in 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
VLJ provides pro bono legal services to a wide range of people. The project at hand, the Servicewomen and Female Veterans Legal Assistance Program, will conduct legal seminars, attorney training and a legal-needs assessment. VLJ will distribute the assessment results to community groups, legislators, the Veterans Administration and the courts.
VLJ also will inform veterans' and other agencies of common legal issues affecting military women.
New Jersey is home to 413,000 veterans, 33,000 of whom are women, according to a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs compilation as of Sept. 30, 2015. Legal-services needs by all veterans prompted VLJ in 2014 to start helping them upgrade their discharge status - a key to improved benefits.