Events

SAVE THE DATE: Lieutenant Colonel Shannon McLaughlin To Give DAV Lecture Thursday, Nov. 21

dav lecture poster nove 2019

November 21: The DAV Distinguished Lecture Series, with Lt. Colonel Shannon McLaughlin (Click image to enlarge)

Lieutenant Colonel Shannon McLaughlin of the Massachusetts Army National Guard will deliver this year’s Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Distinguished Lecture on Thursday, November 21 at noon at Harvard Law School.

McLaughlin, who deployed to Afghanistan and has more than 20 years of military service including time in both the Navy and Army, is now the state judge advocate/legal adviser to The Adjutant General for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, Military Division. She is a member of the Veterans Affairs (VA) Advisory Committee on Women Veterans. McLaughlin has also been a courageous leader on issues impacting women and LGBTQ servicemembers, including serving as lead plaintiff in the suit against VA and the Department of Defense to challenge the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act with respect to military and veterans benefits for same-sex spouses and their families. The event is free and open to the public, and will take place at Harvard Law School in the Wasserstein Caspersen Clinical (WCC) building, WCC 2036 (2nd Floor), Millstein East Function Room A.

The DAV Lecture is made possible by the generous support of the DAV Charitable Service Trust and is co-sponsored by the Veterans Legal Clinic at the WilmerHale Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, the Law School’s Armed Forces Association, and HLS Lambda. Previous speakers in the DAV Lecture series have included Hon. Robert Davis, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims; Dr. David Shulkin, Secretary of VA; Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy; Robert McDonald, Secretary of VA; and Hon. Robert Russell, founder of the nation’s first veterans treatment court.

LSC Hosts Samaritans Inc. for Presentation on Suicide Prevention

Written by: Ellie Schelleng

It may be no exaggeration to say we are experiencing a suicide epidemic. Suicide is increasing at an alarming rate and, as a result, we are living in a time of heightened awareness. According to the CDC, suicide rates have increased in nearly every state from 1999 to 2016. In half those states, the suicide rate has increased by more than 30%. Some of the most at risk populations are veterans, LGBTQ+ youth, and middle-aged white men (who account for 70% of suicides).  Often, spikes in rates of death by suicide can alert observers to underlying issues, such as opioid abuse. In late 2018, a rise in suicides among New York City taxi and ride-hail drivers sparked a New York Times investigation. Charged an exorbitant amount for their taxi medallions and given predatory loans to pay for them, eight New York City drivers felt that suicide was their only option. Members of our Consumer Protection Clinic are currently litigating the consumer protection violations of these predatory loans on behalf of several taxi drivers.

Man at vigil for taxi driver suicides

A taxi driver at a vigil for Roy Kim, a driver who died by suicide late last year. Picture from the New York Times.

Cab drivers are just one of many populations with an elevated risk of suicide. The CDC has listed physical health and legal, money, or housing stresses as major contributors to suicide risk. All of our clients are facing a combination of those stresses and many face additional risk factors. For example, many of our clients are veterans; the suicide rate of veterans is 1.5 times higher than that of civilians. Domestic violence survivors also make up a large portion of our clients. Approximately one in four domestic violence survivors attempt suicide; in the general population, the rate is three out of one hundred.

Our clients aren’t the only people we’re concerned about. When ranked by profession, lawyers have the fourth highest incidence of suicide. They also have other risk factors like higher rates of mental illness and intense stress from peer competition and high stakes cases. It’s not just our attorneys that we are concerned about. Most of our office is staffed by law students and undergraduate legal interns. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among undergraduates and 40% of law students suffer from depression after three years of law school.

Kendra McDonald of Samaritans, Inc.

Kendra McDonald, the Community Education and Outreach Coordinator of Samaritans, Inc.

We are acutely aware that suicide is a growing problem in our community and as advocates need to be well-informed for our clients’ sakes. So, on Monday, July 1st, the Safety Net Project invited Kendra McDonald from Samaritans, Inc, a Boston based suicide prevention organization, to talk to us about how we can prevent suicide in our community. Kendra, who we met at the Boston Public Library Community Health Fair, is the Community Education and Outreach Coordinator with Samaritans. Inc.

Kendra went over the warning signs and risk factors to look for in our clients and peers, giving some great tips on how to talk to people who express suicidal thoughts or who show other warning signs. Kendra also underscored how tough it is to be in our position: seeing someone in crisis takes an intense emotional toll. Kendra used part of her presentation to encourage us to perform some self-care, saying “Each of you should spend at least an hour today doing some self-care, whatever that looks like for you.”

 

Self-care graphic from presentation

A graphic from Kendra’s presentation to remind us all that self-care is a daily activity and that it looks different for all of us.

All of our interns felt that this presentation was deeply important, even though it was at times hard. Sydnie Tiseo, an intern with the Veterans Justice Project, summarized it best, saying: “It’s easy to glaze over because we don’t like talking about it, but it’s an important topic to be reminded of.” Daniel McCarthy of the Estate Planning Project said, “It’s easy to forget how difficult our client’s situation is; it’s helpful to understand what our clients are going through.” Dan also mentioned how the presentation has changed his client interactions: “It’s prompted me to be on the look-out for mental health issues and suicidal thoughts in my clients.” Sydnie, who sits next to Dan, chimed in: “It’s also applicable to friends too.” One of the goals of this presentation was to help us become more comfortable with peer intervention. Katrina Fisher, an undergraduate with the Estate Planning Project, has already taken that to heart. “It’s helpful to know before going into the profession,” she said, “I’m paying more attention so I can see the signs and I’m listening to what the law students’ friends are doing that’s dangerous behavior; I’m more aware now of the risks for lawyers.”

Emily Skahill, an intern in the Safety Net Project, found the presentation really useful in pointing out ways to respond to people in crisis. “There was an emphasis on reaffirming their experiences and how we have these normal human responses that aren’t helpful in that situation.” Nikolas Paladino, also from the Safety Net Project, expressed a similar opinion. “In this line of work, I’m very logical and I’m often trying to fix problems that my clients bring up. Part of what Kendra was saying was that you don’t have to fix all of their problems. Sometimes people are just venting because they need to vent.”

For one of our interns, suicide hits particularly close to home. Arielle Lui of the Safety Net Project is a student at Claremont McKenna College, which had two deaths by suicides this past spring semester. “At bigger universities, they’ll send out an email saying ‘Someone died,’ but we’re such a small campus that it’s different. You know where they lived, you can walk to the room they were in when they died,” she said. “The administration didn’t really know how to handle it, so they just tried to move on as if nothing happened,” she went on. Ari added that friends of the victims on her campus felt like they had seen these deaths coming and that the presentation was the most comprehensive discussion and walkthrough on how to help people in crisis that she had ever had. In the end, Ari had this to say: “There is nothing more important than life and preserving that.”

If you are having thoughts of suicide or are worried about a loved one, call or text Samaritans at 1-877-870-HOPE (4673). You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Presentation slide with resources

One of the final slides of Kendra’s presentation, with local and national suicide helplines and emergency services providers.

 

Harvard Gazette: LSC puts compassion into action

By Clea Simon.

Published by the Harvard Gazette on April 11, 2019.  Photos by Heratch Ekmekjian.

Legal Services Center Faculty Director Daniel Nagin speaks on a panel with LSC Tax Clinic Director Keith Fogg, Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, ArchCity Defenders Executive Director Blake Strode, and disability rights advocate Haben Girma.

“Reaching out to others is how you find out who you really are,” said Daniel Nagin, vice dean of experiential and clinical education and faculty director of the WilmerHale Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School (HLS). He was quoting the late HLS Professor Gary Bellow, LL.B. ’60, who in 1979 co-founded the Jamaica Plain center with his wife, senior lecturer in law Jeanne Charn, J.D. ’70. On April 5, Nagin and others celebrated the center’s 40th anniversary, and the quote strikes at the heart of the center’s mission of improving the legal profession through experiential learning while working with community organizations to enact real and lasting change.

Transformational change may be possible only through such a cooperative effort, said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey ’92. Giving the keynote address at the celebration, she pointed out that not only have more than 40,000 people used the center’s services over the years — people “who were shown an opportunity to have a life-changing experience” — but also approximately 4,500 students have worked there. “Students who have learned to see life, experience life, through the circumstances of another,” she said.

The Legal Services Center — or, as Bellow has described it in the past, the “teaching law office” — is similar to the teaching hospital model used in medical schools across the country, including at Harvard, and it has helped change the lives of thousands of clients in Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, and other neighborhoods in Boston and beyond. Its programs address issues related to housing, domestic violence, predatory lending, and other community needs. The center offers clinics that specialize in areas including federal taxes, estate planning, and accessing veterans’ benefits. Its reach is broad and its results can often be life-changing.

During the 2017–18 academic year, HLS students provided pro bono legal assistance to more than 4,000 clients in Massachusetts, including more than 2,300 residents in the Boston area. The graduating class of 2018 contributed 376,532 hours of pro bono legal assistance, an average of 637 hours per student over their three years at the Law School. This is part of the effort to, in the words of HLS Dean John F. Manning, “make sure we’re always on the cutting edge of clinical education.”

The day’s events showed how this interaction can work. In the first of a series of roundtable discussions on how to narrow the gap between rich and poor and achieve justice for the most vulnerable, “#Connect: A Law Student and Client Discuss Collaboration” featured 2L student D Dangaran and a client recalling how they had worked together, under the guidance of Stephanie Davidson, J.D. ’13, a clinical instructor in the domestic violence and family law clinic. The client had been in the process of freeing herself from an abusive relationship when she met Dangaran, and had already obtained a temporary restraining order against her husband that allowed her and her children to stay in the family home. When Dangaran met her, the order was once again up for review — and her husband had already been arrested for violating it.

“My second week in the clinic and it was the biggest trial of the clinic,” recalled Dangaran. But the client was calm, assured by the student’s focus. “[Dangaran] already knew my case as if they’d been with us the entire time,” she said. “I was very comfortable, and it took a lot of my nerves away.”

Sameer Ashar, Vice Dean for Experiential Education and Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law; Luz Hererra, Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Experiential Education, Texas A&M University School of Law; Jeanne Charn; Sarah Boonin, Clinical Professor of Law and Associate Director of Clinical Programs, Suffolk University; Jeff Selbin, Clinical Professor of Law; Faculty Director, Policy Advocacy Clinic; and Co-Faculty Director of the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice, Berkeley Law

The preparation that went into the case paid off. The husband didn’t show for the hearing, and the client and Dangaran were called to the bench. The judge granted a permanent restraining order “before we even asked,” said Dangaran.

Charn, who was the center’s director for 28 years, served as the institutional memory for the next panel, “#Spark: The Influence of the Bellow-Charn Model on Legal Education.” The center’s beginning, she said, was rocky. “Almost no one supported what we were doing.”Committed to social justice, the center initially took students from several law schools and recruited experts from other institutions, such as MIT, to help them not only win cases but understand the underlying problems. If design could help a landlord maintain apartments, they would bring in designers, she said. “We were at ground level.”

The discussion then progressed to how the Bellow-Charn approach works. Moderator Sarah Boonin, J.D. ’04, now a professor at Suffolk University Law School, said the model was built on the idea that clinics should be immersed in the community they serve because “the community was also a teacher.” For Jeffrey Selbin, J.D. ’89, a professor at UC-Berkeley and director of its Policy Advocacy Clinic, the teaching element was immediately key. “When I walked to the center on my very first day, I was told, ‘You have a client in room one.’” The case involved Social Security benefits for a woman in her 50s. “She just looked at me and said, ‘You’ve never done this before.’ Then she said, ‘I’ve never done this before, either. It’ll be just fine,’ which was an early lesson in ‘client as teacher.’”

Martha Minow; Brandon German, community organizer; Nnena Odim, Director of LSC’s Family Law/Domestic Violence Clinic; Robert Greenwald, Faculty Director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation.

The next discussion, “#Uplift: Using the Law for Economic Justice,” began by asking what had inspired the panelists to make a career seeking economic justice. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, J.D. ’09, shared his frustration as a Peace Corps volunteer unable to alleviate the grinding poverty of Haitian sugarcane cutters in the Dominican Republic. Haben Girma, J.D. ’13, who has limited vision and hearing, recounted being turned away from a summer job once her potential employer met her. Today, Girma, who was named White House Champion of Change by President Barack Obama, advocates for equal opportunities for people with disabilities.

For Blake Strode, J.D. ’15, the spark came even earlier. Strode, executive director of ArchCity Defenders, a nonprofit civil rights law firm in St. Louis, remembered a classmate in his elementary school, an immigrant from Cameroon, who was relentlessly teased for her poverty and accent until he finally gathered the courage to sit with her at lunch and speak up for her.

“It was my first experience of seeing what it meant to stand with someone as they are enduring injustice,” said Strode, who later in the day was presented with the Bellow-Charn Championship of Justice Emerging Leader Award.“That’s the role of the social justice lawyer,” he concluded, “to create community and stop that oncoming train.”

Mass. Attorney General Maura Healey to Keynote LSC 40th Anniversary on April 5th

Maura HealeyLSC is honored to announce that “The People’s Lawyer” — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey — will be the keynote speaker at the 40th anniversary celebration for the WilmerHale Legal Services Center (LSC) of Harvard Law School on April 5.

The address by Attorney General Healey will cap a day of exciting events recognizing LSC’s 40 years of training thousands of law students and providing high quality, pro bono civil legal services to Greater Boston’s most vulnerable residents. The event will also celebrate the role WilmerHale played in establishing our current location in Jamaica Plain 25 years ago.

Attorney General Healey’s keynote will begin at approximately 5 pm in the Ames Courtroom on the Harvard Law School campus. Her speech will provide a powerful capstone to the day’s events, which will include awards for emerging public interest leaders and community partners and the premiere of a documentary about LSC’s unique history and mission. Earlier in the day, interactive discussion roundtables will take place at LSC in Jamaica Plain. These discussion roundtables will bring together trailblazing LSC alumni and colleagues in the fields of clinical education, anti-poverty work, and public service to explore the principles and strategies that should guide our efforts as legal educators and community advocates.

Space is limited for all these events, so we encourage you to sign up at www.lscharvard40th.org as soon as possible for what promises to be a terrific opportunity to engage around some of the most important issues facing the pro bono legal services community and legal education.

About Maura Healey

As chief lawyer and law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth, Attorney General Healey heads “the People’s Law Firm,” advocating for the residents of Massachusetts by protecting consumers, combating fraud and corruption, investigating and prosecuting crimes, and protecting the environment, workers, and civil rights.

Since becoming Attorney General in 2015, Healey has tackled some of the most pressing challenges facing Massachusetts, including the opioid epidemic, escalating health care costs, wage theft, and gun violence. She has focused on strengthening consumer protections and on improving our criminal justice system, and launched a first-of-its-kind Community Engagement Division to bring the attorney general’s work into neighborhoods and communities.

Healey has joined and led many cases brought by attorneys general from across the country to protect federal clean air, water, and climate rules, end family separation at the border, uphold reproductive freedom and civil rights for transgender individuals, support student loan borrowers, stop interference with the U.S. Census, and defend the Affordable Care Act.

Prior to her election, Healey headed the office’s Civil Rights Division. In that role, she was the architect of the state’s successful challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Later as a Bureau Chief, Healey took on the mortgage crisis, shutting down predatory lenders, forcing banks to modify thousands of home mortgages, and stopping hundreds of foreclosures in Massachusetts communities.

Healey, the oldest of five children and the first LGBT state attorney general in the U.S., is a graduate of Harvard College and Northeastern Law School. She was captain of the women’s basketball team at Harvard, played basketball professionally in Europe, and has been inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.

We are thrilled to host Attorney General Healey and to bring together the broader LSC family for this first-ever gathering. We hope to see you on April 5th! Please be sure to sign up soon at www.lscharvard40th.org.

Legal Services Center to host 40th Anniversary Event on April 5, 2019

On April 5, 2019, the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School will celebrate its 40th anniversary with its first-ever reunion for alumni, faculty, students and friends. Learn more and register at lscharvard40th.org.

This will be a day to look ahead as well as to celebrate our past. We will consider:

  • How the law can be used to create economic justice.
  • How law students can be more effectively trained to meet legal needs.
  • How innovative partnerships with community organizations, medical providers, the private bar and other groups can enable us to work together to improve the lives of our communities’ most vulnerable residents.

April 5 will be a day of exciting events recognizing LSC’s 40 years of training thousands of law students and providing high quality, pro bono civil legal services to Greater Boston’s most vulnerable residents. The day’s event will also celebrate the role WilmerHale played in establishing our current location in Jamaica Plain 25 years ago.

Our keynote will be at approximately 5 pm in the Ames Courtroom on the Harvard Law School campus. Our soon-to-be announced speaker will provide a powerful capstone to the day’s events, which will include awards for emerging public interest leaders and community partners and the premiere of a short documentary about LSC’s unique history and mission. Earlier in the day, interactive discussion roundtables will take place at LSC in Jamaica Plain. These discussions will bring together trailblazing LSC alumni and colleagues in the fields of clinical education, anti-poverty work, and public service to explore the principles and strategies that should guide our efforts as legal educators and community advocates.

We hope you will join us. Space is limited for all of these events, so I encourage you to sign up at lscharvard40th.org as soon as possible for what promises to be a terrific opportunity to engage around some of the most important issues facing the pro bono legal services community and legal education.

We look forward to seeing you all on April 5.

“The newest Federal Court Experiment”: Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims speaks at Harvard Law School

On Thursday, November 8th, Chief Judge Robert N. Davis of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims gave the 2018 Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Distinguished Lecture at Harvard Law School to an audience of students, faculty, staff, and members of the veterans community.  The Chief Judge’s Lecture was entitled “The United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims:  The newest Federal Court experiment, past, present and future.” Opening remarks were provided by the National Adjutant of DAV, Marc Burgess.

Chief Judge Davis of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims delivered the 2018 DAV Distinguished Speaker Series Lecture at Harvard Law School

Chief Judge Davis—a Navy veteran who joined the Court in 2004—spoke about the history of veterans law, the origins of the Veterans Court, and present challenges facing the Veterans Court in its role reviewing benefit decisions of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Chief Judge Davis chronicled the evolution of veterans law from World War I to the present day, including discussion of the Veterans Judicial Review Act of 1988 that introduced court review for veterans claims and established the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Chief Judge Davis highlighted the need for continued innovation, noting how much “[o]ur veterans legal landscape has evolved from its early days,” and challenging audience members to use their own voices—as veterans, students, advocates, pro bono attorneys—to prompt the significant change required to provide the services that veterans will need in the future.

Chief Judge Davis also discussed the Court’s structure, accomplishments, and challenges. The Veterans Court is unique in terms of its exclusive jurisdiction over appeals from the Board of Veterans Appeals, as well as the way which the vast majority of appeals are decided by single-judge non-precedential decisions. The Veterans Court has a tremendous caseload, handling over 7,000 cases in 2018. Among its challenges, the Chief Judge stated that the Veterans Court is “grappling with how to efficiently decide more panels, decide class actions, and deal with an increasing case load.”

[A]ny time it takes a veteran years to get a final decision on a claim, the system is broken.

Looking ahead to the future of veterans’ law, Chief Judge Davis stressed the importance of pushing for overhaul of the veterans claims system. He stated that while many veterans are able to navigate the veterans claims system in a reasonable way,“any time it takes a veteran years to get a final decision on a claim, the system is broken.”

He ended his lecture by urging the veterans community to continue working towards positive change in the veterans claims system, pointing to the progressive evolution of veterans law over time. “Veterans law is maturing. The Court has carried out their vision of a place where veterans can go to get fair, efficient justice.” Finally, Chief Judge Davis left the audience with a call to action, declaring “We have a voice. We need to start using it.”

Veterans Court Chief Judge Davis and DAV National Adjutant Marc Burgess pose with staff of the Veterans Legal Clinic

After his lecture, Chief Judge Davis answered a range of questions from the audience, including the role of pro bono attorneys at the Court, the impact of presumptive diagnoses for disabilities, and the appellate reforms to be implemented under the Appeals Modernization Act.

The event was hosted by the Veterans Legal Clinic of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, in partnership with the HLS Armed Forces Association. The lecture was the 5th annual event in the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Distinguished Speaker Series, sponsored the DAV Charitable Service Trust. The Speaker Series provides a forum for national leaders to address the critical issues facing our nation’s disabled veterans and to engage in conversation with the local community. Prior speakers include then-Secretary of the U.S. Navy Ray Mabus, the founder of the first veterans treatment court Judge Robert Russell, and former VA Secretaries David Shulkin and Robert McDonald.

LSC, OUTVETS, & Veterans Legal Services Co-Host LGBTQ Veterans Summit

A two-day summit at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, MA on the unique issues faced by LGBTQ veterans brought together dozens of experts on LGBTQ military and veterans matters from the US and Canada. The group of legal, political, and healthcare experts examined both past and present discriminatory policies — including Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — and the proposed U.S. transgender service ban, currently on hold in the courts.

Titled “Do Ask, Do Tell, Do Justice: Pursuing Justice for LGBTQ Military Veterans,” the two-day ideas-in-action summit was co-hosted by the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, OUTVETS, and Veterans Legal Services. Also spearheading the event was John R. Campbell, Former U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for the Office of Warrior Care and 2017 Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative Fellow.

Held April 19-20, it brought together dozens of experts on LGBTQ military and veterans’ matters. Participants who shared their stories, experiences, and best practices included representatives from OutServe-SLDN, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, American Veterans for Equal Rights, the National Veterans Legal Services Program, Dartmouth Hitchcock, Johns Hopkins, and the Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association, as well as co-hosts OUTVETS, the Veterans Legal Clinic of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, and Veterans Legal Services.

Canadian Attorneys John McKiggan and R. Douglas Elliott offered their perspectives as co-counsel on the groundbreaking matter of Satalic, et al v. Her Majesty the Queen, a successful national class action brought on behalf of current and former LGBTQ employees of the Canadian Armed Forces, Department of National Defence, and the Government of Canada. The action resulted in a record-breaking $145 million settlement and public apology from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The summit engaged participants in a multi-disciplinary examination of legal and non-legal remedies to enforce the rights of LGBTQ veterans and to honor and fully recognize their military service and unique sacrifices. The Honorable Halee Weinstein, and Paula M. Neira, JD, MSN, RN, CEN, gave powerful keynote luncheon addresses concerning discriminatory military policies against LGBTQ servicemembers, and the transgender service ban, respectively.

Weinstein, one of the few openly gay judges in the Maryland court system, was named Associate Judge, District Court of Maryland, District 1, Baltimore City, in 2002 and has been Judge-In- Charge of Eastside District Court since 2014. She served as a military intelligence officer in the Army from 1984 to 1986 until she was discharged because of her sexual orientation. Weinstein also created and is the current presiding Judge of the Baltimore City Veterans Treatment Court.  Neira was a surface warfare officer whose service included a tour of duty in mine warfare combat during Operation Desert Storm. After the Navy, she found a path toward nursing and law. She is the first transgender Navy veteran to have her DD-214 updated by order of the Navy to reflect her correct name. Additionally, she is the co-sponsor of the USNS HARVEY MILK. She is currently the Clinical Program Director at the John Hopkins Center for Transgender Health.

The summit also dovetailed with Harvard Law School’s (HLS) bicentennial celebration and engaged alumni in the second day’s “hackathon” discussions of potential ways to address past and current discrimination against LGBTQ service members and veterans.

“It is genuinely exciting to witness so many individuals committed to advancing the rights of LGBT veterans. Symposia like the HLS Hackathon give me hope that there are still possibilities for positive change within our society,” said participant Hanna Tripp, who serves as a Military and Veteran Fellow in the Office of Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy, III.

Results from the summit’s working groups are currently being compiled into a more formal report which will be released in the next few weeks, but overall participants left the event feeling energized and hopeful, echoing Ms. Tripp’s comments.

“OUTVETS is honored to have been part of this amazing summit,” said Bryan Bishop, Commander of OUTVETS, a Boston-based LGBTQ Veterans Organization and the first ever LGBTQ organization to march in the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  “It never ceases to amaze me how, when we put our heads and hearts together, we can develop ideas that help the most vulnerable of our Veterans.  It is so important to remember that it is the one Veteran standing in front of us that is the most important.  This summit represents the beginning of an energized movement that works together to break down walls so no Veteran is left behind.”

Contact:
Anna Richardson, Veterans Legal Services
Anna@veteranslegalservices.org
Julie Rafferty, Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School
jrafferty@law.harvard.edu

VA Secretary Shulkin Discusses Needs of Disabled Veterans During Visit to Harvard Law School & Veterans Legal Clinic

For the fourth year in a row, the Veterans Legal Clinic of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School gathered together veterans, veterans service organizations, government officials. community providers, veterans advocates and lawyers, and law students for an event focused on the needs of disabled veterans. On Thursday, November 2, 2017, Dr. David Shulkin, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, delivered the 2017 DAV Distinguished Speaker Lecture at Harvard Law School. The event was co-hosted by the Veterans Legal Clinic and Harvard Law School’s Armed Forced Association.

Alan Bowers, former National Commander of DAV, introducing VA Secretary Shulkin at HLS

Introductory remarks were given by former National Commander of DAV, Alan Bowers, a disabled combat veteran of the Vietnam War. Mr. Bowers described the community’s shared goal to care for veterans who are injured or ill as a result of their military service. “May the work of Harvard Law, the DAV, and the VA keep the promises that we make to the men and women who enlist in our armed forces of the United States of America, past and present. Keep the promise.”

Secretary Shulkin spoke about the challenges facing the VA, the VA’s efforts to serve the current needs of veterans, and his approach to leading the second largest federal agency.  Among other topics, he discussed veteran suicide, the needs of veterans with less-than-honorable discharges, innovations in the delivery of healthcare for veterans, and benefits appeal system reform. Speaking about the 2014 VA healthcare waitlist crisis, Shulkin said, “Our success is the trust of the veterans we serve and we clearly lost that trust.” Describing his approach when he took over as Secretary, he explained, “The only way I know how to go about regaining that trust is by being open and transparent about problems and as you’re fixing problems letting people know.”

VA Secretary Shulkin Speaking at HLS

Shulkin also described the VA’s comprehensive definition of health—the Whole Health System—which informs how VA seeks to provide holistic services, including peer support, transportation, homelessness services, and even connections to legal services. “What other health system thinks that it is important to have an involvement with the courts and to provide legal assistance? … Making sure that we can address the full well-being of a veteran is critical.”

(l-r) Anne Stark, HLS ’18, former Clinic student; Joshua Mathew, HLS ’19, current Clinic student and Armed Forces Association Co-President; and VA Secretary Shulkin meeting at the Legal Services Center.

After his lecture, Secretary Shulkin visited the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, located in Jamaica Plain.  Secretary Shulkin toured the Center and met with current and former Clinic students and staff to hear about the legal assistance they provide to low-income and disabled veterans and the most pressing legal issues faced by the veterans community.

Supported by a generous grant from the DAV Charitable Service Trust, the DAV Distinguished Lecture Series provides an annual forum at the world’s most renowned university and law school, public servants, and thought leaders to speak on issues of importance to the nation’s veterans. The series recognizes leading figures in the veterans’ community, raises awareness about the needs of veterans, sparks discussion about the public policies that most impact veterans, particularly those with service-connected disabilities, and serves as a call to action for veterans and non-veterans alike to help ensure the nation honors its commitments to those who have served.

For more coverage of Secretary Shulkin and his visit to HLS, please visit:

https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/11/va-secretary-says-vets-health-top-priority/

https://today.law.harvard.edu/shulkin-seeks-increase-service-accountability-veterans-affairs/

VA Secretary to speak at Harvard Law School on Nov. 2nd

Dr. David Shulkin, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, will deliver the 2017 Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Distinguished Lecture at Harvard Law School next month. This is the fourth annual event in the DAV Distinguished Speaker Series. The Speaker Series provides a forum for national leaders to address the critical issues facing our nation’s disabled veterans and to engage in conversation with the local community. The series is co-hosted by the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School and the Harvard Law School Armed Forces Association.

The event will be held on Thursday, November 2nd, 2017, at 12pm, in Milstein East B on the second floor of Wasserstein Hall on the Harvard Law School campus. The street address for Wasserstein Hall is 1585 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge. The event is open to the public.

 

LSC Hosts the DAV Distinguished Speaker Series on Veterans Treatment Courts

Judge Robert RussellOn November 9th, the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School will host the third annual Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Distinguished Speakers Series featuring Judge Robert Russell, founder of the nation’s first Veterans Treatment Court. Judge Russell’s lecture begins at 12pm in Ames Courtroom, in which he will reflect on his founding of the Court in Buffalo, NY, and the future of the Veterans Treatment Court movement across the nation. The event will commence with opening remarks by our honored guest, retired Executive Director of DAV National Services and Legislation, David Gorman and with brief introductions by Daniel Nagin, the Faculty Director of LSC and the Veterans Legal Clinic and Vice Dean for Experiential and Clinical Education. A boxed lunch will be served at this time, for those who register here.

Following the lecture, Judge Russell will join a discussion panel alongside our three other distinguished guests:  Judge Eleanor Sinnott (Boston Municipal Court), Judge Mary Hogan Sullivan (Dedham District Court), and Major Evan Seamone (USAR, Professor at Mississippi College School of Law) to discuss the challenges and opportunities of veterans treatment  courts going forward.  The panel discussion will be moderated by Betsy Gwin, Clinical Instructor and DAV Charitable Service Trust Fellow, of LSC’s Veterans Legal Clinic.

For more information and to register, please visit https://davspeakerseries2016.eventbrite.com

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