Public Forum Regarding WV Veterans
Beckley, W.Va. – Mike Lyons, Operations Manager of West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance, spoke on behalf of the Department at a public forum event
, hosted by The West Virginia Access to Justice Commission, on August 16th, to discuss access to justice barriers for the veterans in West Virginia.
Mr. Lyons discussed the need to form a West Virginia Veterans Court. He discussed how every war has it's signature illnesses. WWII was ionized radiation, Korea was cold injuries, Vietnam was herbicides, Gulf War was undiagnosed illnesses, and with the newly returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, that signature illness is PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). Currently 46 such courts have sprung up in 20 states to address the needs of veterans returning home from Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam. He noted that an example of how successful these courts can be is to look at the one in Buffalo, New York. They have a zero recidivism rate and none of the participants have been rearrested and returned. The aim of this program would be to create a therapeutic environment that fosters rehabilitation. By agreeing to treatment and rehabilitation, the veteran would avoid jail for the crimes that landed them in the court system.
Information gathered from the public forum hearings will be used to conduct a needs assessment regarding civil legal representation for people of low income or modest means in the state.
Five hearings will be held during the fall and the final hearing will be held at the West Virginia Supreme Court. The hearing panel will consist of West Virginia Access to Justice Commissioners. Local legislators, judges, city and county representatives have been invited to attend.
The Commission also encourages those who have experienced barriers to the civil legal system to sign up to speak at one of the public forums.
The Commission would like to hear from speakers who can address a number of issues including language barriers, attorney fees, court costs, lack of transportation to courthouses, illiteracy, lack of notice, lack of disability accessibility, lack of sign language interpreters for the deaf, cognitive impairments, income just above poverty guidelines yet still prohibitive of obtaining legal services, and others.
The forum schedule follows.
August 16, Smith Auditorium at Tamarack, Beckley
August 29, Martinsburg
September 12, Huntington
September 26, Wheeling
November 1, Morgantown
November 15, Charleston
All forums will take place from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
The West Virginia Supreme Court established the Access to Justice Commission on January 29, 2009, by Administrative Order. The purpose of the commission is to assist West Virginians with low income or of modest means overcome barriers within the civil legal system. These hearings will allow the Commission to identify those barriers.
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