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Attorneys help wounded warriors

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Since June, a number of Indiana-based Army Reservists have been helping American soldiers in their greatest hour of need. These attorneys assist soldiers disabled to the extent that they need to retire from military service as well as those who have injuries but are physically able to continue serving.

As Judge Advocate Generals, these Hoosier attorneys are in the middle of a one-year assignment to serve in the Office of Soldiers’ Counsel in Army medical centers around the United States and in Germany. Some may serve even longer.

waldkoetter Waldkoetter

The Indiana attorneys now serving are Col. Eric Waldkoetter, at the U.S. Army Medical Command in Falls Church, Va.; Lt. Col. James McGillivray, at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.; Major Jeffrey Mastin, at the Army European Regional Medical Center in Heidelberg, Germany; Major Edward Lupomech, at the Evans Army Community Hospital in Fort Carson, Colo.; Captain Kenneth Mattern at the Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis in McChord, Wash.; and 1st Lt. Exton Cordingley at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. Paralegals serving are Specialist Sarah Capozza, also at the Madigan Army Medical Center, and Master Sgt. Rodger McConnaughey at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, the largest American hospital outside of the U.S.

Soldiers who are determined to be 30 percent disabled in a way that prevents them from doing their assigned duties and accept help from these and other JAGs in the Office of Soldiers’ Counsel become eligible, along with their dependents, for benefits that include retirement pay and health insurance.

Soldiers who want to continue serving despite their injuries can have the JAG officers work with them to present their cases as well.

To be determined as 30 percent disabled, the requirement for retirement from the Army, a Medical Evaluation Board must first review the soldiers’ files. Following the MEB’s determination, soldiers can meet with counsel, who will walk them through the process and explain what they need to have for the next step: meeting with the Physical Evaluation Board.

“One thing we try to do is tell their stories,” said Waldkoetter, 51, who is an attorney for Roche Diagnostics in Indianapolis. He oversees the JAGs from Indiana and others in their unit.

“One of our challenges is to connect with soldiers who are wounded, injured, or ill and have a right to counsel, but for whatever reason (they) don’t want to exercise that right to counsel,” he said, adding the system is fairly complex.

jag 1st Lt. Exton Cordingley stands in front of an Army helicopter at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. (Submitted photo)

“The intent of having a complex system is to make the system fair by its complexity, but it also reaches a level of complexity where you need help to navigate that system,” he said.

Unfortunately, he said, many of the soldiers have received incorrect information from others, including veterans and senior officers. But the JAG officers can help them understand that process and clear up any misconceptions, including the role of the JAGs.

“In the context of the Physical Evaluation Board hearing, the JAG serves as an advocate for the soldier before a tribunal,” Waldkoetter said. “The people change occasionally, but it’s basically fixed. There’s a medical doctor, an officer who is a specialist in personnel issues – someone who knows the physical requirements for different jobs; and a third person on the board who is usually a combat arms officer.”

Waldkoetter added that the board is non-adversarial, and that all participants, including the panelists and the paralegals who assist the JAGs, are trying to figure out what’s best for the soldier.

At the same time, JAGs also need diplomatic skills when appearing before the panels, which tend to remain the same.

“You develop a reputation with the board. … If you take an extreme position in one case, it could potentially diminish your credibility in another case. You need to find a legal way to get to yes,” he said.

He added that because retirement for a soldier can be costly, the tribunal not only has responsibilities to the soldier, but also to the Army and taxpayers. For instance, if an injured 20-year-old soldier is found to be at least 30 percent disabled, he will receive government-funded healthcare for himself and his dependents for the rest of his life.

jag Attorneys and paralegals from the U.S. Army, Office of Soldiers Counsel, in Europe man a display during ESPN’s SportsCenter broadcast from Grafenwoehr, Germany, on Veterans Day. Fortville attorney and U.S. Army Reserve Major Jeff Mastin, second from left; U.S. Army Reserve Master Sergeant and Chief Paralegal Rodger McConnaughey from Middletown, third from left; and former Baker & Daniels paralegal Judith Gilliam, right; staff the operation with U.S. Army civilian attorney R. Charles Collica, left; and U.S. Army civilian paralegal Glenda McRavin, second from right. (Submitted photo)

Another Indiana lawyer, McGillivray, 50, is currently serving in the Office of Soldiers’ Counsel at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. In Indiana, his legal job is a supervising attorney role in a legal clinic at Indiana University in Bloomington, through the school’s Office of Student Affairs. The clinic isn’t attached to the law school, but he does work with 2Ls and 3Ls to help undergraduate students with their legal issues.

His experience at Walter Reed, he said, is one of the best of his career. He has met many young soldiers with missing limbs and severe injuries who maintain good spirits through it all.

He has also seen older soldiers who are at the end of their careers.

“Being a soldier is hard,” he said. “Over the course of a career, you can get dinged up in a variety of ways. … After a 10-, 12-, 15-year career, what started as a little knee problem is now a disabling knee problem. I’ve seen lots of soldiers with injured knees, ankles, and shoulders. But because the Army doesn’t want to just kick somebody out, the soldiers are very carefully evaluated with a combination of medical providers and military personnel experts.”

He added that he has admired the tenacity of his clients.

“I’ve had a curious mix of clients,” he said, “including some who are fairly badly injured, but want to stay in. So then our advocacy is to get them found fit. … Others might disagree with the ratings they receive, thinking they are too low, so we collect evidence and testimony from our client to try to get them a higher rating.”

But there is no room for error, Waldkoetter said, adding the officers go through intensive training to become certified to serve in this office. If an officer makes a mistake, he or she will be reassigned. However, of the JAGs he has needed to reassign since starting, he said none of them have been from Indiana.

“The Indiana team is really exceptional,” he said. He added that many of the Indiana officers “have had combat experience, so they share that bond of esprit de corps that not all JAG units have,” which may also help in their attention to detail and with telling their clients’ stories.

The soldiers also enjoy the work, including Cordingley, an attorney in his late 20s who graduated from Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis in 2008 and has been serving at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.

Like McGillivray, Cordingley said he has also had a mix of clients in terms of how long they’ve been serving and the types of injuries they have.

And even though he hasn’t had a great deal of legal experience outside of working for the Army Reserves, which he joined the summer he graduated from law school, he highly recommends the work for other attorneys who want to serve their country full- or part-time.

“There are so many opportunities as a reservist or in the National Guard” for lawyers, he said. He added he has enjoyed traveling around the country in the last two years for his service, including Hawaii and Germany, and that it has also been a great way to keep in good physical shape.

Cordingley said the job “is a positive mission … to make sure that these veterans are taken care of. The cases have been getting backlogged and it’s a serious mission for us to help. … I think the Army decided to call in reservists to do this … for morale purposes. They are making sure this is on the forefront, they are being proactive, and taking care of those who need to be taken care of. They are making sure others aren’t falling through the cracks. … It means a lot to be able to represent your fellow soldier,” he said.

McGillivray and Waldkoetter agreed and also recommend getting involved with the military for their fellow attorneys. Anyone seeking more information may contact Waldkoetter at his office: (703) 681-5917; his mobile work number: (571) 318-2187; or his personal mobile phone: (574) 527-1263. He can also be reached via e-mail, eric.waldkoetter@us.army.mil.

For more information about the Office of Soldiers’ Counsel, including a video explaining the process of MEBs and PEBs, visit the website, https://www.jagcnet.army.mil/otjagosc.•

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  • VA compensation
    In 2002 my husband a diabetic veteran received Legion Magazine.An artical in it said ,if you were stationed in Vietnam an agent orange was above you an your parents didn't have diabetis this could be the cause of your diabetis., you possibly can receive VA compensation.Its true I wrote Drs an hospitals for all info on my husb in 1983 he started taking pills for diabetis then aug 2008 he started dialysis.April 2003 he received $79,000 an $9,000 toward a new vehicle he was then diagnoised by the VA 100%.An he received $3800 a month another $100 every yr was added, $4300 a month when he died.The VA also gave $10,ooo life ins..He died dec 2008 I now as his wife receive $1449 VA comp plus his ssd,he died because of neglect an malpractice bed sore.Ive tried fighting suing the hosp but in Indiana its hard to prove so lawyers are afraid to lose.My point if any vets come to you ,you may mention the VA comp many vets dont know this I promise you.I also recd $50,ooo an $10,000 an a check for $2000 6 months after his death.I paid more money down on our home an ourchased a newer car.please advise your VA clients of this ..sincerely judy

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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