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Oregon Veterans Need a Few Good Lawyers

PHOTO: The backlog of VA disability claims requires that more Oregon attorneys increase their knowledge of the military culture and legal system in order to better assist veterans. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com.
PHOTO: The backlog of VA disability claims requires that more Oregon attorneys increase their knowledge of the military culture and legal system in order to better assist veterans. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com.
November 11, 2013

TIGARD, Ore. - Veterans Day celebrations can be a bright spot in the lives of vets who are otherwise struggling with financial or medical problems.

This week, the Oregon State Bar Association is bringing national experts to a seminar for attorneys about handling Veterans Administration disability cases. The backlog of claims at the VA numbers in the hundreds of thousands, and many attorneys aren't familiar with the military culture and legal system.

Chris Kent, who chairs the OSBA Military and Veterans Law Section, said this kind of case is a challenge not only for the veteran but for those who represent them.

"You have to be a combination of a personal injury lawyer, disability lawyer, an administrative law lawyer and an appellate lawyer - all of those skills rolled into one human being - and you have to have the appetite and the willingness to do these claims, because you do not get paid right away," he said.

By that, Kent means most are contingency cases, with the attorney fees as part of a win or settlement.

Salem attorney Jesse Barton said the need has increased as the number of veterans in Oregon has grown. Some have employment or family law issues, he said, but for many, the need is related to a disability.

"I have a little tagline at the end of my emails that I send out that involve veterans - 'Someday this war will end, but the casualties won't.' And I mean that the casualties will continue to grow for, I figure, between 10 or 15 more years," he said. "That's not based on just my own guess. It's based on historical precedent."

The Bar Association's Military Assistance Panel also helps active-duty service members.

Kent said people don't have to be attorneys to make a difference for Oregon's military families.

"You can help in little ways - by bringing a potluck dish over to someone's house whose family member is serving," he said. "If you are in a position to be an employer, by thinking, 'What could I do to help one of these service people who needs a job, or has returned?' There's a lot that people can do on just a person-to-person basis."

The seminar on handling veterans' disability claims is Thursday at the OSBA office in Tigard. Attorneys can register on the Oregon State Bar Association website.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR