For a Southern girl, possibly the only relationship to rival the relationship between a girl and her daddy is the bond between a girl and her granddaddy. I introduce you to my grandfather, Allen G. Monroe, pictured here in his WWI uniform. Pawpe, as he was affectionately known to his eight grandchildren, taught us many life lessons that he was quite sure we were not being taught in school - how to ride a horse, milk a cow, plow a mule (well, I walked behind him), pick peas and beans, dig potatoes and shuck corn. But more importantly, my grandfather taught me to fiercely love my family, my friends, my neighbors, and my country. He also taught me to always honor and respect those who fought for the freedom that we enjoy.
Pawpe trained at Camp Beauregard in Louisiana, and he was preparing to be shipped off when Germany signed the Armistice Agreement on November 11, 1918. He never left American soil, but his devotion to our country’s military and veterans’ affairs never waned. As a recipient of care at the VA medical center, he often visited his friends or family members who were veterans receiving care at the VA. Pawpe watched his son leave for WWII, and he proudly welcomed him home again when the war ended. He listened to his daughter (my mom) deliver her Salutatorian speech at her high school graduation in 1945 entitled “Our Debt to Our Veterans.”
How do we measure what we owe to those who have served on our behalf? I submit that their service should be considered and treated as priceless to all of us who bask in the freedom they preserve for us. From a practical standpoint, what can we do as health lawyers to give back to those who have sacrificed so much? Michael Clark, Chair of the Health Law Section in 2014-15, decided that we could form a Military and Veterans Affairs Task Force as part of the Health Law Section to address health issues that our active servicemen and women and our veterans currently face. The Task Force was launched last year under the leadership of our Immediate Past Chair, Bill Horton. Bill was also motivated by the lessons learned from his grandfather. When asked about his involvement in this important issue, Bill said, “My grandfather spent a lot of his adult life fighting to get veterans the support and respect they deserved. I’m proud that we were able to launch this critically important task force during my year as Chair of the Section.”
The Section announced the formation and mission of the Task Force on Veterans Day last year: “In commemoration of Veterans Day, the Health Law Section is proud to introduce the Military and Veterans Health Law Task Force. The Task Force encompasses all areas of health law pertaining to active military and veterans with a particular focus on collaboration with the ABA’s Military Pro Bono Center and the ABA Veterans' Claims Assistance Network (VCAN) which provide legal assistance in eight areas of Civil Law. The Military and Veterans Health Law Task Force also serves as a resource to Law School Veterans Clinics by providing a mechanism for sharing best practices, recent trends, proposed and new regulations and agency mandates, documents, policies, protocols and forms, implementation of laws and regulations, and content expertise.”
Because the Task Force accomplished so much in its first year, the Section recognized the importance of the issues addressed. Accordingly, the Section made the Task Force a permanent part of the Section and re-named it the “Military and Veterans Health Law Educational/Outreach Interest Group.” The Chair, Deirdre Golden, MD, JD reports that the Interest Group and its Advisory Board, chaired by Jason Vail, Esq., ABA Sr. Counsel, Director of the ABA Military Pro Bono Institute and member of the ABA’s Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel (ABA LAMP) which supports several initiatives to deliver legal assistance and services to service members, veterans, and their families, have succeeded in reaching superior goals in helping both the military and veterans with advice, expertise, and representation. The Chair, two Vice Chairs, and many members of our Interest Group are also members of the 13 other ABA military and veteran committees, which create bridges for better communication.
The Interest Group and Advisory Board leaders, liaisons, members and law students work actively with the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Also involved in this effective collaboration are members of the judiciary, the Law School Consortium, various medical academies, the Network for Public Health Law, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Institute of Medicine. Interest Group leaders, members and the Advisory Board collaborate in representing the Interest Group on panel presentations and symposia in locations from San Diego to Washington, D.C. and all of the states in between. This draws attention to military and veteran health law issues, and it helps create ways to resolve them. The Interest Group is particularly proud of its medical-legal partnerships among the Military, the VA, and civilian physicians and lawyers.
Each leader and Advisory Board member, in turn, represents other national organizations and government entities, such as the JAG Corps and multiple veterans organizations. This creates an extraordinary network in every state.
Five Advisory Board members, the Chair of the Interest Group, and four Vice Chairs participated in the ABA’s National Military & Veterans Legal Issues Summit held in Washington, D.C. in June 2016, and two Vice Chairs are members of the ABA President’s 2016-2017 Commission on Military and Veterans Affairs.
As a Section, we are proud to support the efforts of our ABA President, Linda Klein, in her initiatives to promote veterans’ issues. President Klein recently challenged us to get involved in veterans’ issues, noting in a recent email: “The new ABA Commission on Veterans Legal Services is developing a comprehensive approach to broadening access to justice for our nation's veterans. This year, the ABA's National Pro Bono Celebration in October is being extended to Veterans Day on November 11, and we're also encouraging pro bono activities on or around Memorial Day. Please visit www.celebrateprobono.org to find a veterans pro bono event near you, to get ideas for planning an event, or to register your event. Thank you for your involvement. Together, lawyers can and will make a difference in our communities.”
The Section’s Washington Health Law Summit planning committee is pleased to announce that the Section will be featuring a keynote speech from President Klein, along with a panel entitled "Veterans Facing Health-Harming Legal Needs: How Medical-Legal Partnerships Can Bridge the Gap" at our upcoming Washington Health Law Summit, December 12-13, 2016, in Washington, DC.
If you are interested in being involved in this important topic, please consider joining our Military and Veterans Health Law Educational/Outreach Interest Group, chaired by Professor Deirdre Golden, JD, MD, of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law in Detroit. This group encompasses all areas of health law pertaining to active military and veterans. Visit the website for more information:
C. Joyce Hall
Important Mississippi tidbit: Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, MS, announced on October 25, 2016 that: “Keesler Air Force Base surgeons are forging a new path in military medicine by being the first in the Air Force to use one of the most advanced robotic surgery systems available today. The Keesler Medical Center has acquired two of the newest robotic surgical systems out there, the da Vinci Xi, one for surgeries and the other for surgical training. Also, Keesler’s Clinical Research Laboratory has set up a training facility called the Institute for Defense Robotic Surgical Education, for surgeons to get their official robotic surgery credentials.”1