Disrupting Veteran Legal Aid, Antoinette Balta with Veterans Legal Institute
Disruption Interruption podcast host and veteran communications disruptor, Karla Jo Helms, interviews Antoinette Balta, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Veterans Legal Institute — who has been providing pro bono legal services for thousands of low-income veterans in need.
Veterans put their lives on the line every day to defend our country, but the fight doesn’t stop when they come home. Veterans often need legal aid to get critical services, but in most cases it is too expensive, forcing them to represent themselves or worse, not even have their legal needs met. COVID has made them even more vulnerable.(1) Enter disruptor Antoinette Balta, Executive Director & Co-Founder of Veterans Legal Institute, who tells Karla Jo Helms, host of Disruption / Interruption, how her non-profit is giving back to veterans by providing pro bono legal services those who have given so much to us.
Most Americans assume that once veterans have exited military service and returned home, they are in no more danger. However, reassimilating back into civilian life can be very difficult. For instance, veterans, especially those who receive compensation benefits, are frequent targets of scammers. In addition, low-income veterans can be especially vulnerable when it comes to issues that require legal assistance such as housing and health care benefits.(2)
Antoinette’s firm, the Veterans Legal Institute, is acutely aware of these issues and to date, has served more than 8,000 low-income veterans.
- Courage is the gateway to disruption. Change is difficult but it’s well worth the effort to improve the lives of others.
- Veteran legal is much too costly for today’s veterans. Rates can be as high as $400 an hour, and if they can’t afford these costs, the veterans must represent themselves.
- 80% of veterans become businesspersons, but the other 20% must deal with service-related psychological or physical wounds and need legal help.
- Every day, 22 veterans take their own life — that’s more than veterans lost in combat on a daily basis.
- Veterans Legal Institute wants to give legal help and services to every veteran that needs it, and never turn one down.
- 15 years ago, while Antoinette was working at a National Guard armory emergency shelter, she noticed there were many veterans that needed more help than others but were not getting it. This experience became the impetus she needed to begin the change.
“When I’m driving onto the on ramp of the freeway and I see someone holding a sign and it says homeless veteran, can you help? It makes my blood boil because I’ll usually look at the veteran and it’s almost always a Vietnam era veteran. It’s mind blowing,” Antoinette Balta says. “Fortunately, the OEF OIF, the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, have a lot more resources at their fingertips. There’s a lot more outreach to them, but I definitely don’t want to forget our brothers and sisters that served in Vietnam and even Korea.”
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Quote of the show:
6:38 “When I’m driving onto the on ramp of the freeway and I see someone holding a sign and it says homeless veteran, can you help? It makes my blood boil because I’ll usually look at the veteran and it’s almost always a Vietnam era veteran. It’s mind blowing. Fortunately, the OEF OIF, the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, have a lot more resources at their fingertips. There’s a lot more outreach to them, but I definitely don’t want to forget our brothers and sisters that served in Vietnam and even Korea.”
About Veterans Legal Institute:
Veterans Legal Institute® (VLI) provides pro bono legal assistance to homeless, at risk, disabled and low income current and former service members to eradicate barriers to housing, healthcare, education, and employment and foster self-sufficiency. To volunteer or help, visit www.vetslegal.com
About Antoinette Balta:
Antoinette Balta is Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Veterans Legal Institute® where she oversees and has responsibility for the overall management of the firm including business development, outreach, public relations, marketing, strategic planning and a light legal caseload. She comes to VLI with a long-held passion to serve homeless and at-risk veterans and service members and has dedicated her career to that end. Ms. Balta holds a degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing and Management from Chapman University School of Business as well as a Juris Doctor with a special certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution and an LLM emphasized in Business and Economics from Chapman University Fowler School of Law.
- Hecht, Nathan L. and Kelly, Chari L. “Veterans often need legal help to get critical services, and COVID made them more vulnerable.” The Dallas Morning News, 09 November 2021, dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2021/11/09/veterans-often-need-legal-help-to-get-critical-services-and-covid-made-them-more-vulnerable/.
- Fisher, Ann. “Challenges Low-Income Veterans Face To Readjust To Civilian Life.” All Sides with Ann Fisher podcast, 11 November 2021, news.wosu.org/show/all-sides-with-ann-fisher/2021–11–11/challenges-low-income-veterans-face-to-readjust-to-civilian-life.
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