County Court System teams up with VA for first-in-nation guardianship program

2 min read760 views and 152 shares Posted November 6, 2019

For most Americans, it is important that our hospitalized veterans receive nothing less than the finest available care. At the Lebanon VA Medical Center (VAMC), that care just got a little better for some veterans thanks to an agreement with the Lebanon County Courts.

The partnership between Lebanon VAMC and the Lebanon County Court Administrator creates a process to improve guardianship for certain veterans, and it’s the first of its kind in the country.

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Guardianship is a process used when an individual is determined to be unable to care for themselves or their property. Generally a veteran’s family or friends will step forward to become the veteran’s guardian. However, according to Sarah Primak, a licensed clinical social worker at the VAMC, there are several cases each year when a veteran has no family options. When that happens, the VAMC must go through the court system to have a guardian appointed.

When the courts appoint a guardian, it becomes a legal process with legal and filing fees that can be expensive for the veteran, who is responsible for the costs.

Primak explained: “The challenge we faced was providing proper legal counsel. We were not legally able to use our in-house counsel nor pay for external legal services to assist those veterans, who were shouldering the financial burden. That’s when we approached the Lebanon County Court Administrator to develop a better method”

Under the leadership of President Judge John Tylwalk, a “Memorandum Of Understanding” between the Lebanon VAMC and the Lebanon County Court System was recently signed. The agreement offers:

  • Pro bono legal services to pursue court appointment of guardianship for veterans who have been medically determined to lack decision making capacity to direct their own affairs, including medical care and who have no family or friends willing to petition for guardianship.
  • Waiving of filing fees associated with any guardianship petitions initiated by the Lebanon VAMC.

Judge Tylwalk said of the agreement: “In partnership with our County Bar Association, I am pleased that our Court can provide this type of service for our hospitalized Veterans. I hope other Courts across the nation will embrace this effort and provide the same service at their local VA.”

Lebanon VAMC is among the 170 medical centers in the U.S. that have the primary purpose of providing top-quality medical care to America’s veterans. The Lebanon VAMC serves nine counties, including Adams, Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry, Schuylkill, and York, and also operates community clinics in Lancaster, Mechanicsburg, Pottsville, Wyomissing, York, and Ft. Indiantown Gap.

If a veteran wants to learn more about receiving care and benefits from the Veterans Administration, he/she can call (717) 272-6621 ext. 6000 or visit the Lebanon VAMC website. The Lebanon VAMC can also be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

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