Veterans Administration attorney Patricia Hooks, VA Medical Center Director Leslie Wiggins and Alvetta Thomas, president of nearby Atlanta Technical College, where hundreds of veterans matriculate, were among the celebrants at the office’s ribbon-cutting ceremony Feb. 21 at the Atlanta VA Medical Clinic, 1701 Hardee Ave.
Hooks said the VA is “extremely grateful” for support from the state bar’s military legal assistance program committee, chaired by Cherokee County attorney and former Army Reserve Capt. Eric Ballinger, and its military and veterans law section, chaired by Sandy Springs attorney and West Point graduate Drew Early. She also acknowledged the support of Wiggins and her staff, calling the partnership “awesome.”
Cary King, a combat veteran and senior attorney with Jacobs & King LLC in Dunwoody, heads up the office’s legal team of 12 to 14 lawyers, who also served in the military.
Areas of practice include family law, consumer law, wills and estates, powers of attorney and other civil issues.
Every Friday, one attorney working from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and another taking appointments from 1 to 4 p.m. will provide pro bono legal services personally to clients or refer them to more specialized attorneys.
The initial visits are free, King said; if more extensive legal work is necessary, attorneys will work for reduced, “low bono” fees.
Annually, about 500 veterans who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East receive legal assistance under a program started 15 years ago by Melburne “Mac” McLendon at the Decatur veterans hospital on Clairmont Road.
“McLendon, now deceased, recognized that many of the thousands of veterans who came to the VA Medical Center in Decatur for medical attention also had a variety of special legal needs that only an attorney could meet,” state bar spokeswoman Sarah I. Coole said in a statement. “He was permitted by the VA to set up a small office at the hospital and there offered pro bono services to veterans who could not afford to hire an attorney.” Following McLendon’s 2008 death, King became the program manager, for which he has been recognized on state and national levels.
“It continues to be a pleasure working with VA staff at Decatur and now at Fort McPherson. Al Rosado, site administrator at the VA clinic, has been most welcoming,” King said in a statement. “The facilities are impressive and we feel that our volunteer lawyers will be able to provide effective legal assistance to vets who come to Fort McPherson in search of assistance on a variety of personal and family needs, now including legal help.”
Because of the Decatur location’s success, Hooks said another satellite law office has recently been established in Augusta and plans are underway to open a similar one in Dublin.
Information and appointments: Franchi Clark, (404) 728-7728