Serving Those Who Served: Meeting Veterans’ Unmet Legal Needs

Vol. 23 No. 3

By

Will A. Gunn is U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs general counsel, Stephen T. Redmon is special assistant to the VA general counsel, William F. Russo is deputy director of the VA’s Office of Regulation Policy and Management, and Sean C. Clark is national coordinator of the VA’s Veterans Justice Outreach Program.

Each year, around 60 percent of high school graduates go on to college and university—some version of higher education. Of the remaining 40 percent or so, some undergo vocational training; others immediately enter the workforce. A few join the less than one percent of Americans who voluntarily serve in our Nation’s armed forces. . . . [A]fter basic training and arrival at their first units[,] they quickly become valued and trusted members of high-performing teams. . . . With strong leadership, they perform the complex, the difficult, and the dangerous missions, as they are doing today in Afghanistan and as they have done throughout our Nation’s history. . . . But . . . [v]eterans suffer disproportionately from depression, substance abuse, and they are well up there in joblessness as well—factors which contribute to homelessness . . . and, sometimes, to suicide[.] This is not about them; this is about us.

—Eric K. Shinseki Secretary of Veterans Affairs 2012 National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) Annual Conference, May 30, 2012

The United States has a long history of military conflict and the challenges associated with properly honoring and assisting with the transition of veterans from military service to civilian life. Demonstrating the proper treatment and appreciation of veterans to ensure their smooth transition from military service is primarily the responsibility of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), but many government and private organizations play a role in caring for veterans and their families.

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