This year, Veterans Day commemorates the 100-year anniversary of the conclusion of World War I, called by some as “the war to end all wars.” Looking back at history, it is understandable why those living through it hoped the label could be true. The scope of WWI’s impact and the toll of its destruction were unlike any war that came before it.
My grandfather, Clem Hausmann, served during WWI. As an infantryman with the Army, he went overseas and fought in Europe. I’ve been thinking about his service because Veterans Day, originally called “Armistice Day,” began as a way to commemorate the conclusion of that war.
Every November, we observe Veterans Day so that, as President Eisenhower wrote in his first official Veterans Day proclamation, “a grateful nation might pay appropriate homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed so much.” For me, appropriately honoring the public service of our veterans means trying to better understand their experiences. It also means emphasizing the important ways we are connected. As such, I see Veterans Day as a reminder of something we all share that is manifested by military service, its notions of duty and honor, and all its attendant sacrifices. Namely, that we have a responsibility to each other; we are all a part of, and enjoy the benefits of, the country our veterans served to defend.
As attorney general, I have focused on veterans and current military service members for the purpose of better meeting that responsibility. In 2013, for example, we first published a Military & Veteran Legal Resource Guide to improve understanding about the many federal and state laws that offer military service members and veterans unique benefits and protections in recognition of their service.
My office also enforces these laws. We have brought legal actions against unscrupulous operators of sham charities using the goodwill afforded veterans to line their own pockets. We initiated a statewide sweep against property management companies illegally discriminating against veterans with federal housing vouchers. Through our consumer protection efforts, we’ve recovered millions of dollars for current or former military consumers from businesses unfairly targeting them with deceptive practices. We also sought and obtained additional enforcement authority from the Legislature, authority we used in September to file suit against a Pierce County towing company that illegally sold a sailor’s car while he was deployed abroad.
I’m proud of these accomplishments, but we must do more. My office recently conducted a survey of the legal needs of Washington’s military personnel and veterans and found that approximately 60% experienced at least one legal challenge in the last year. Our survey also found that most of these individuals do not seek legal assistance, with financial limitations being the primary obstacle to getting the help they need.
To honor our veterans, we should all play a part in ensuring military personnel and veterans don’t feel like they are alone if they face challenges. Members of the legal profession have a special responsibility for the quality of justice in our state, and we can meet that responsibility by helping veterans. I’m calling on my fellow lawyers to join me in giving back to those who have served and protected us.
I believe our state’s legal community is up to the task. In accordance with recent legislation sponsored by state Rep. Christine Kilduff, whose district includes Joint Base Lewis-McChord, my office is launching a program to help connect volunteer attorneys with military service members, including members of the Guard and Reserve. You can find more details about this new program, including information on how to join our volunteer force, on the Attorney General’s Office website.
We owe a debt to those willing to put their lives on the line in service to our nation. Washington’s lawyers can help pay that debt by offering their time and talent to help current and former military service members who need help addressing their legal challenges. I hope you will join us in working together to meet the significant legal needs of our state’s military service members, veterans, and their families.