Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, MACV, held its annual metro assistance days, “StandDown”, on 8/2 and 8/3 at the newly renovated “Boy Scout Base Camp” which is a remodeled facility at Fort Snelling. It’s an air conditioned large space with access to the Fort Snelling LRT station and bus lines. The service providers included many veteran services people, public benefit representatives from metro governmental agencies, housing and shelter agencies, employment assistance, medical services, legal services and miscellaneous providers, even free hair cuts. All of the various organizations had booths/work spaces and representatives to assist the Vets.
I volunteered my legal services as a criminal defense attorney and a member of Mn Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys to help Vets solve miscellaneous legal problems. There were prosecuting attorneys present from Ramsey and Hennepin Counties, and other criminal defense attorneys. The screeners brought Vets, most of whom were disabled at some level, to the legal people who then worked to see if their criminal matters could get resolved. It was in some sense an amnesty program for those Vets who took the time to come in and get help to work out their legal problem.
One of the Vets I worked with had two old traffic matters unresolved. One involved a no insurance fine, and the other an unpaid speeding fine. Arrangements were made to change the unpaid fines to community service which the Vet could do right at the StandDown. My client immediately went to work helping keep the center clean to get his fines dropped.
Another client wanted to get a fishing license. A 100% disabled vet is eligible to get a lifetime fishing license free of any charges by showing he was 100% disabled. We cleared up an old fishing license violation charge out of Greater Minnesota, and than made arrangements to show proof of his 100% disability to get the man his fishing license.
This was my first time as a volunteer. I was very impressed with all the volunteers, and the level of services provided for the Vets. One of my clients was a veteran of Vietnam and another the Gulf Wars. I would encourage anyone who can to look into assisting this very worthwhile project in the future. It is my understanding that they do StandDown’s in other MN cities such as St. Could, Duluth and the like.
~Jon P. Erickson