About OMVLAP

American patriots have put on the uniform of this country and placed themselves in harm’s way on behalf of all of us. Yet, as many servicemembers re-enter the civilian population, they find jobs scarce, their military skills in low demand, and their financial resources strained or limited.

 

Consequently, servicemembers and veterans may find it difficult to pay their rent, face high credit card debt, experience unemployment, or even struggle to maintain a healthy and lasting marriage. Presented with these challenges, many American heroes quickly find themselves in the middle of our civil justice system without the resources necessary to retain a lawyer for assistance.

 

The Ohio Military/Veterans Legal Assistance Project was founded to help provide legal representation to the brave men and women of this nation who are and have put themselves in harm’s way to protect our country and serve us all.

Evelyn Stratton

Evelyn Lundberg Stratton
Retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice

History

While an Ohio Supreme Court Justice, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton was focused on finding a path to assist Ohio’s veterans and servicemembers who faced issues with our legal system. She first urged the creation of Veterans’ Courts, a diversion program targeted at helping veterans facing criminal charges, rather than simply punishing them. But Stratton also found that many of the veterans she encountered had issues with civil justice, not just criminal matters, and she was determined to build a program which would offer civil legal representation to those veterans who could not afford to hire a lawyer.

Development of the Ohio Military/Veterans Legal Assistance Project

After obtaining funding, Stratton contacted retired attorney Mike Renner, who had familiarity with recruiting volunteer lawyers to provide legal service to those facing financial hardships. Renner guided the fledgling organization, now known as the Ohio Military/Veterans Legal Assistance Project (OMVLAP), toward a model which created a toll-free call center where a veteran could speak with a legal specialist, be screened for income requirements, and have his or her legal issue triaged. He also focused on aggressively marketing the organization through a number of veteran channels, and recruiting volunteer lawyers with whom the call center could connect veterans to provide them with representation on a pro bono basis.

To date, OMVLAP has recruited more than 300 volunteer attorneys, statewide, who volunteer their services to low-income veterans of all ages, as a part of the pro bono program, Operation Legal Help Ohio (OLHO). And while there do still remain Ohio counties in which no volunteer attorneys currently practice, the 59 counties with identified volunteers include all of the state’s major population areas.

 

OLHO focuses on civil law matters – primarily landlord/tenant issues, consumer debt, uncomplicated domestic matters, employment issues, estate planning, and VA benefits – although, at times, volunteer attorneys have also agreed to step in on other civil issues as well.

While Operation Legal Help Ohio was designed primarily to help very low-income veterans and servicemembers, many attorneys wished to also serve the active-duty men and women currently putting themselves in harm’s way on America’s behalf who still maintained an income level greater than that required to meet the low-income requirements of OLHO. So, OMVLAP formed a second program, Legal Salute Ohio (LSO), which offers a pool of attorneys willing to represent these men and women in uniform for greatly reduced legal fees.

 

LSO volunteer attorneys are available to active-duty servicemembers, rank E-6 and lower. At the present time, most of the attorneys participating in the Legal Salute Ohio program are located in Central Ohio, but the pool is continuously expanding to other parts of the state.