Signed into Law! Groundbreaking Veterans Legal Program Will Move ForwardAugust 11, 2015
Veterans and military families in Illinois will have much greater access to necessary legal help after key amendments to the Access to Justice Act were signed into law by Governor Rauner last week.
The Access to Justice Act, originally passed in 2013, created a pilot program to develop and support a much-needed hotline and network of legal assistance to help thousands of veterans and military families in need throughout the state. Due to a technical problem identified after the original version of the Access to Justice Act had been signed into law, the implementation of this pilot program was on hold.
One of the CBA and CBF’s main advocacy priorities this year was to help pass a legislative fix for this technical problem so the pilot program could proceed. With the leadership of Representatives Emily McAsey and Al Riley and Senator Kwame Raoul, HB 3933 passed both the House and Senate unanimously and was signed into law by Governor Rauner last week.
Now that HB 3933 has been signed into law, the pilot program will be developed, evaluated and overseen by a special statutorily created council that will operate under the auspices of the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF). The five-year program will be funded by a temporary $2 add-on to civil filing fees that will sunset at the conclusion of the pilot program in 2020. It is anticipated that initial grants under the program will be awarded in the summer of 2016.
This innovative new program already has been touted as a potential national model for providing critical legal services to the men and women who have served our country. By providing this much-needed legal help for thousands of people in need, the new program will make the justice system in Illinois more fair, accessible and efficient for all Illinoisans.