January 01, 2014

Letter to the ABA Senior Lawyers Division from a VA Doctor

Laurie S. Lipman

Dear Reader,

Remember the poster of “Uncle Sam” pointing at the viewer, saying, “I want you!”? Well, as a physician in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system, I want you—the lawyer reading this issue—to help my patients and the patients of my colleagues in VAs from Togus, Maine, to Honolulu, Hawaii, by offering your skill set to the veterans who cannot afford decent legal assistance. Veterans need help with their divorces, child support adjustments, wills, home purchases, and tax appeals to the IRS—just like anyone else.

Disabled veterans’ needs often are like those of disabled people in your community who are not veterans. For example, a veteran with dementia from traumatic brain injury may refuse necessary home help and be at risk for harm, living alone without supervision. Family members may be willing to provide help to protect the veteran, but they may require legal assistance to establish guardianship, power of attorney for medical decision making or finances, or payee assignment, just as they might for an aged relative with another kind of dementia. The opposite occurs as well. Vulnerable to fraud, scams, and abuse, even from someone close, disabled veterans need your legal assistance.

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