Life-Changing Support Services Help Veterans Move Forward
Years and even decades after returning to civilian life, many of America’s 18 million veterans continue to experience significant day-to-day challenges related to their time in the military. Some face a host of interconnected issues, from health conditions such as traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to substance abuse, unemployment, and homelessness. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide in the United States every day.
Mintz attorneys and staff regularly provide pro bono legal services to nonprofit and advocacy organizations working to improve the lives of our nation’s veterans.
Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD) provides services to help more than 3,000 veterans each year overcome homelessness and related challenges. To ensure its clients get the support they need to rebuild their lives, the organization takes a comprehensive approach that combines employment and training services, help with legal issues, mental health and rehabilitation services, and assistance in securing housing, depending on the needs of the client. Mintz’s Lara Compton calls on her experience as a health care regulatory attorney to help the organization address issues that could jeopardize their clients’ privacy and put the organization at risk of noncompliance with state and federal privacy laws.
“One area I specialize in is health information privacy,” Lara said. VVSD often receives requests for access to their clients’ information, which in some cases can involve health information, including substance abuse treatment or mental health information. These requests come from a wide range of third parties, ranging from other entities assisting veterans and government entities providing funding for such assistance to attorneys who have issued civil and criminal subpoenas.
“The federal and state privacy rules pertaining to health information are numerous and the regulatory landscape is complex. For several years, I’ve helped the organization meet its legal obligations relating to the privacy and security of its client data and navigate requests for access to client information,” she said. With her help, VVSD is able to safeguard clients’ sensitive information — which helps establish much needed trust between VVSD and its clients.
“Working with VVSD on privacy issues gives me a great opportunity to use my background as a health care regulatory attorney to really make a difference for veterans,” Lara said, “and the people at VVSD are a joy to work with and take their privacy obligations very seriously.”
On the East Coast, attorney Kevin Ainsworth has provided pro bono legal services to the Warrior Ranch Foundation, a not-for-profit organization in Long Island, New York that provides equine therapy for military veterans and first responders with PTSD.
A study conducted at Tufts University has shown that equine-assisted therapy reduces PTSD symptoms. While learning how to groom, feed, and exercise horses, program participants bond with the animals and benefit from their companionship — lowering their own stress levels and building confidence as they learn to communicate with the horses and help the animals overcome their fears. Warrior Ranch also hopes to rescue horses from neglectful owners or slaughterhouses, or after they have retired from careers as race or show horses, and to retrain them for adoption.
Along with delivering general guidance as a member of the board, Kevin has reviewed contracts for the organization. In addition, Mintz attorneys Brie Kluytenaar and Corbin Carter have helped with employment law matters, such as employment contracts and COVID-19-related employment regulations.
Together with Mintz’s Cody Keetch and Susan Kealy, Kevin also recently helped two new veterans’ organizations file as 501(c)(3) charitable entities. One, Project Athena, seeks to involve female veterans in empowering activities centered around wild mustangs, conservation of public lands, community enrichment, and personal development and care. The other, Warriors Rise, provides customized virtual career fairs for veterans as well as underwriting for veterans’ adaptive sports and general assistance to veterans in need.
Kevin, a US Marine Corps veteran, has also served on the boards of directors of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation and the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, and continues to provide the latter with pro bono counsel to support its mission to provide academic scholarships to children of US Marines and Navy Corpsmen.
“I am very proud to team with these impactful organizations through pro bono and volunteer work as they strive to help veterans,” Kevin said.
Attorney Jen Rubin serves as a faculty member and advisor with The Honor Foundation, a San Diego–based nonprofit, operating nationwide, that assists former Navy SEALs, Marine Raiders, Green Berets, and other Special Operators as they transition from military service to the private sector. Jen teaches veterans skills relating to basic employment terminology and negotiation to empower them as they pursue employment and careers in the private sector. She also advises participants one on one as they negotiate employment offers and equity and benefit packages.
Attorney Andrew Skale and trademark specialist Jacobo Dib have been providing trademark guidance to American Freedom Honors and its parent organization, Veterans of Operation Iraqi/ Enduring Freedom, a national service organization based in Fort Worth, Texas. The American Freedom Honors Awards recognize distinguished members of the Armed Forces for their unique and exceptional achievements, outstanding performances, and extraordinary contributions. The overall operations of the event are undertaken by members of the Armed Forces who currently serve or have served honorably, as well as community organizations serving military personnel and veterans, and the corporations and individuals who support them.
Mintz attorneys and professional staff also give back to veterans and their families through charitable donations and volunteerism at community events. For over 25 years, the firm has held a holiday gift drive for veterans. Through this annual drive, led by Attorney Michael Gardener and Assistant Mary O’Halloran, Mintz attorneys and staff provide clothing and other needed items for men and women at the New England Center for Homeless Veterans in Boston, and the firm has become the largest contributor of holiday gifts for Massachusetts veterans.