Register NOW Salutes the Great Work of the Veterans Legal Institute

After transitioning from military life to civilian life, veterans can be blindsided by evictions, job discrimination, monetary challenges, family conflicts and other civil issues.

The Veterans Legal Institute offers a lifeline like no other. The Santa Ana nonprofit is Southern California’s only public interest law firm exclusively devoted to low-income veterans. It is one of a handful nationwide, even though legal disputes often contribute to veterans’ homelessness and joblessness.

Antoinette Balta, a former civil litigator for a Tustin law firm, and Dwight Stirling, a California National Guard attorney, founded the institute in 2014, opening first in a one-room office in Fountain Valley.

Balta, an officer with the California State Military Reserve, worked in private practice for five years before joining the Public Law Center, a Santa Ana legal aid group, where she saw a dire need for attorneys with a military background.

Stirling, who represented service members in the Guard, had been frustrated to see that troops had little access to lawyers after leaving the military.

“We are privileged to be able to work with many great non-profits,” said CEO Debbie Gregory. “I salute the Veterans Legal Institute for all of the great work they are doing on behalf of our veterans.”

In less than two years, the institute has handled 1,300 cases.