Protecting Older Veterans Who Once Protected Us
Serving the wide-ranging needs of vulnerable older Philadelphia veterans 60 and older, their widows/widowers and other senior family members who are victims of crime and elder abuse with a range of focused, collaborative victim services and resources, addressing their continuum of needs, including safety, health, shelter, and economic security.
Funded by a Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, this project targets two currently underserved victim populations in Philadelphia: elders and veterans. Both face specific vulnerabilities which make access to victim services challenging and innovative services necessary. There are approximately 70,000 veterans currently living in Philadelphia. More than 50% of these vets are seniors (approximately 36,000 older veterans). Older veteran victims need focused, sensitive and accessible services to meet their special needs.
Because veterans have their own health care system, they are often isolated from other non-veteran oriented social and legal support systems. Veterans are often reluctant to ask for assistance, in light of their strong personal histories and the military culture of independence, self-reliance and strength. This culture creates additional barriers for victimized older veterans against accessing the help they need in critical areas of their lives. This project addresses all of these many challenges facing older veterans.
We provide the following services to older veteran victims of crime:
o Four monthly community based clinics at the following partner venues: Intercommunity Action/Journey’s Way, Martin Luther King, Jr. Older Adult Center, West Oak Lane Older Adult Center and Northeast Older Adult Center.
Legal assistance to veterans, including the following:
- Housing: real estate taxes; mortgages and reverse mortgages; fraudulent deed transfers; landlord-tenant actions; probate and tangled titles
- Elder Abuse: misuse of powers of attorney; physical abuse; financial exploitation
- Family Law: custody; spousal support; domestic violence
- Consumer Issues: identity theft; debt collection; contract disputes; home repair contractor fraud
- VA benefits: misuse of VA Fiduciary status; appeals from denials of benefits
- Consumer Issues: advice on debt collection, bankruptcy filing, seeking debt counseling
- Other noncriminal legal issues: advance planning documents (financial and health care powers of attorney, living wills, simple wills), pensions
o Referral to emergency financial assistance, emergency food service, in-home care services and emergency shelter.
Connection to the full network of other veterans’ services, including benefits available to veterans’ families, dependents, spouses or children, with multi-generational impact. For our veteran victims, we will pursue financial benefits (disability compensation, pension), Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits for homebound or seriously disabled veterans, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation for dependents and survivors of veterans, burial and funeral expenses, and pensions for surviving spouses and dependent children of deceased veterans
o Connection to the full network of senior services including geriatric mental health counseling, senior housing counselors, senior home repair assistance programs, senior tax freeze and other real estate tax and utility programs, senior in-home meal and companionship services, and much more.
We have also formed a volunteer Senior Veterans Advisory Corps, who serve as advisors, contributors, and ambassadors for this program. The peer corps strategizes on the project and brainstorms outreach ideas, focusing on methods to strengthen SeniorLAW Center’s bonds within the veterans’ community, raise awareness of our services and program, and encourage veterans to access services when needed. The group has made such an extraordinary impact on this project that the group was honored at SeniorLAW Center’s annual gala on May 4, 2016. Members of the advisory corps participated in a special video which was shown at the gala, which can be watched HERE.