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John Holzbaur volunteered Friday to help veterans with legal issues.
Jax Daily Record Monday, Oct. 24, 201612:00 PM EST

Legal community volunteers to help veterans during city event

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by: David Chapman

Down a winding hallway of the Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic’s second floor, a group of people sat patiently and waited their turn.

On this day, they weren’t there for medical help.

Instead, the group was seeking assistance on Homeless Veterans Legal Day, part of the 17th annual Homeless Veterans Stand Down series of events hosted by the city’s Military Affairs & Veterans Department.

Tables were set up just inside the office for one-on-one consultations, with one manned by Florida Coastal School of Law student John Holzbaur.

The 23-year Navy veteran took time to offer legal help to those who kept coming through the door with myriad issues impacting their lives.

His shirt — a blue short-sleeve button-down emblazoned with “Jacksonville Veterans Court” — shows it’s not the first time he’s helped this population.

“It matters,” he said.

Many of the people seeking guidance have issues with driver’s licenses or paying child support. Others have more serious problems, like a veteran Holzbaur helped Friday who had a warrant for his arrest and substance abuse issues. He just wanted help.

Usually the first step is calming them down, said Holzbaur.

From there, it’s about taking the steps for accountability and assistance, which often involves arranging court dates. It also could mean the help-seekers are recommended for Veterans Treatment Court, a program started several years ago by Public Defender Matt Shirk.

Holzbaur helped that effort, too.

Like Holzbaur, Steve Marchbanks and John Hinton sat in the conference room providing assistance, one veteran after another.

“When you’re homeless and a veteran, you don’t always have access to the legal system,” said Marchbanks, treasurer and emergency funds administrator for the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs.

He drove from Tallahassee early to take part in the daylong event, though acknowledged ideally this would be a full-time job for several attorneys to “help veterans get their lives back.”

Hinton, who serves multiple roles in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, had similar thoughts.

“They are the greatest disenfranchised group of people that never should have been,” he said.

He said it is good to see how services and efforts have improved the past decade, when prior outreach didn’t always exist.

Separate from the event, those efforts exist locally.

From 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. the second Friday of each month, the Veterans Legal Collaborative hosts a brief counsel and advice session. There, attorneys offer 20-minute one-on-one meetings.

And, from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on the fourth Friday of the month, licensed attorneys with the collaborative present information on specific legal topics in a classroom environment.

The next session is Friday on the topic of sealing criminal arrest records.

Holzbaur said attorneys offering their time and services are always needed for veterans’ issues, but sometimes the hang-up can be the complexity of a case.

As for last week’s legal day, the need filled the hallway.

Both Marchbanks and Hinton said they would be there a while. As long as they could, actually — until there were no more veterans waiting in line for help or the clinic kicked them out.

[email protected]

@writerchapman

(904) 356-2466

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