New website offers legal assistance to Vermonters

Vermont Legal Aid and Law Line of Vermont have launched a redesigned website, Vermont Law Help, offering guidance on health care access, health insurance issues and other civil legal issues.

The purpose of the site is to react to a growing demand for legal services, particularly after the launch of Vermont’s new state-run health insurance market, Vermont Health Connect, said Eric Avildsen, executive director for Vermont Legal Aid.

The new site provides legal resources and consultation relating to state health care reform, such as support concerning access to services, denials and appeals, billing and complaints, Avildsen said.

The website has two to three times more content than the former site, he said. Aside from health care related content, it includes assistance with a variety of legal resources, such as family problems and housing issues.

The two organizations received a $130,000 federal grant to provide consultation to residents in response to the Affordable Care Act, the national health care reform law, Avildsen said.

He said the grant money went directly to the health care component of the organization and was not used to fund staff working in other areas or for the development of website content that was not related to health care.

In the wake of the 2008 recession, he said demand for legal services increased by about 40 percent. Vermont Legal Aid, which is a nonprofit organization designed to assist low-income residents, has had either flat or declining funding in recent years.

The website is a tool to provide legal assistance using technology when resources are tight, he said.

“There are lots of new ways in which technology can help people,” he said.

Vermont Legal Aid’s former website will remain operational but is now linked to the new site. The old site will a provide a location for people to register for volunteer work or make donations, Avildsen said.

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