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Texas Nonprofit Offers Free Legal Help To Veterans Disabled While Serving


A free legal clinic for retired U.S. military veterans with service disabilities opens Thursday afternoon in Dallas.

It will be the 50th free clinic offered by Metroplex Veterans Legal Services. The nonprofit launched six years ago to help veterans get services they need and are entitled, but often don’t know about, says attorney and founder Joan Gillham.

"Some of these vets that we see do have mental health issues," Gillham said. “Some of them have physical disabilities as part of the whole entire picture. It’s a whole different way of life that those of us who are civilians never have experienced."

Gillham helped found the organization in part to honor a friend and Vietnam War veteran who died from service related injuries. She said her friend would've appreciated the nonprofit.

Retired Navy officer Craig Thomas Liebendorfer said he certainly appreciates the organization. The ballistic missile technician was aboard his submarine when he suffered an injury he said crushed his spine, both knees and part of his neck. He’s had 41 surgeries.

He qualified for Combat-Related Special Compensation but needed legal help to get it.

"These wonderful attorneys, pro bono, spent months fighting for my back pay," Liebendorfer said. “I was a third-class petty officer so my compensation was set at about $212 a month. That's a trip to the grocery store or two. So this I think would really be of great importance to my fellow veterans."

Thursday's free legal clinic for veterans is open only to retirees with combat or service injuries who register in advance. Free consultations are only available to those eligible for Combat-Related Special Compensation, or CRSC.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.