My father, grandfather, and uncles all served in the military. My family’s strong legacy of military service taught me the importance of honoring veterans and expressing gratitude for their service to our nation. Veterans Day holds special meaning for me as a day when we can collectively acknowledge the sacrifices of those who have served our nation. However, it is not enough to express our gratitude for veterans. We must show our support through action.
As attorney general, I am proud of the ways my office actively stands up for the rights of veterans every day through the work of every division in our office. I am pleased to announce three ways we are taking additional action to improve the lives of Washington’s veterans.
First, we are working on drafting proposed legislation for the 2024 legislative session to change state law to ensure veterans who qualify for federal veterans’ benefits will also qualify for state benefits. This bill will assist approximately 35,000 Washington veterans who are already eligible for federal VA benefits but are precluded from accessing important state benefits. In particular, this will benefit LGBTQIA+ veterans who were unjustly discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and similar policies.
Second, in coordination with the King County Department of Community and Human Services, we developed a proposal for consideration by the King County Council for a veterans’ law school clinic or legal aid fellowship, funded by the King County Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy. If approved, the clinic or fellowship will assist veterans and their families with federal VA benefits appeals and other administrative military and veteran matters. The Office of Military and Veteran Legal Assistance recently surveyed social service, health care, and legal aid providers across Washington about unmet legal needs in the military and veteran community. Dozens of providers told us that veterans struggle to obtain the VA benefits they deserve. A summary of the survey results will be released in the next few months.
Finally, we are relaunching the pro bono program run by the Attorney General’s Office of Military and Veteran Legal Assistance. The former Military Engagement and Directed Advocacy by Lawyers (MEDAL) program is now the Call to Duty program. The Call to Duty program, previously run by the WSBA, hosts legal clinics around the state, provides trainings for attorneys, and, most importantly, quickly connects veterans with attorneys who have agreed to provide brief legal advice. Studies have shown that even a quick conversation with an attorney is a proven method to help people solve their civil legal problems. I encourage members of the legal community to sign up on our website to provide advice or assistance at legal clinics.
As we look forward this year, please consider tangible ways you can support Washington’s veterans. Veterans provide vital contributions and service to Washington’s communities. To those who serve and served in the military, thank you.