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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. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

  2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

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