Georgia Bar Journal
GSB Vol. 14, NO. 2, Pg. 30.
New Committee Addressing Unmet Legal Needs of Military Servicemembers, Reservists and Veterans
GSB JournalVol. 14, NO. 2October 2008New Committee Addressing Unmet Legal Needs of Military Servicemembers, Reservists and VeteransLinton JohnsonRecently, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published the story of a young Marine corporal who suffered a traumatic brain injury in an October 2006 roadside bomb explosion in Iraq.
Two years down the road to recovery, his external scars are minimal, but the internal trauma remains: significant memory loss, breathing problems, bronchitis, and discomfort from glass and shrapnel still in his arms. According to the article, the corporal takes medication for seizures, insomnia and depression.
Now 23 years old, he has retired from the Marines at 40 percent disability. He is one of thousands of injured U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who returned home as heroes but are a far cry from being made whole again. Sometimes they don't know where to turn for help; sometimes help is not available.
It has come to the attention of the State Bar of Georgia that a growing problem throughout the U.S. military involves active servicemembers, reservists and veterans who need legal services outside what is available to them from the government. At the Annual Meeting in June, the Board of Governors voted to establish a special committee, charged with the task of identifying and addressing unmet legal needs of the state's military servicemembers, reservists, veterans and their families.
The panel-chaired by Charles L. Ruffin and comprised largely of lawyers with military experience and/or an abiding interest in military and veterans' law-went to work immediately, assigning tasks to various members and meeting on a biweekly basis.
"The Pro Bono for Military Veterans & Servicemembers Committee is working hard on the design of a comprehensive program that encourages Georgia lawyers to stand in the gap between legal services available to on-duty military personnel and unmet needs," State Bar President Jeffrey O. Bramlett said. "Georgia lawyers are grateful for the military service of our troops and returning veterans. This committee is looking for ways lawyers can personally and voluntarily give of themselves where servicemembers and veterans are not getting the legal help they need."
Military lawyers at a number of Georgia installations strongly agree the need for such a program exists.
Maj. Antony B. Kolenc, staff judge advocate at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, related the following scenario: an active duty service member comes in with divorce paperwork recently served on him by his estranged wife. He has three children and the wife wants custody of them. His wife's attorney has drawn up a settlement, with a detailed breakdown of how...