By Dan Hayward, Attorney, Ira Hayes Veterans Fellow, Spokane
I joined the practice of law to provide services for the powerless. I never want to go back to the grind of the cubicle life where my talents and passions were washed away with each passing day. This position at the Unemployment Law Project has rekindled the fire in my soul. I would be fortunate to be allowed to continue this fellowship or find a similar position elsewhere. It has been an honor and privilege to serve alongside attorneys who live for an opportunity to serve their community.
I am slowly learning the tactics and strategies of our practice. With each passing day, I grow more competent to serve the needs of our community. It is hard not to be impatient to learn the game. Losses can be so devastating when you know that your client will have no ability to pay their bills or feed their families. The need for services is great and our resources are limited. It takes diligence and patience to represent each claimant when we know that thousands will go unrepresented.
Alongside my efforts for our clients, I have spent several days outreaching to the veterans community. I have made many valuable contacts and started a cascading flow information that continues to expand. With a strong network of organizations and individuals, our services will be well known in the veterans communities. It’s not clear when we will see the results of our work, but I know we are making the contacts we need to and our services are being offered to unreached groups.
I attended the Spokane Veterans Task Force this last week. Many of my contacts suggested that this is the biggest event in town for veterans. There were at least 25 different organizations offering their services to veterans. I handed out all my business cards I had and many organizations were eager to speak with me. The need for legal service in the veterans community is substantial. Not only were the veteran’s eager to hear about the Unemployment Law Project, many of the organizations were delighted to get my contact information. The organizations said that it’s hard to find free legal services for veterans. A few people congratulated me because of the type of work we do.
Over the last month, I had the privilege to work on an amicus memo for a veteran. Veterans issues can be complex and unique. I learned that there are some larger legal concerns for veterans and the unemployment system. Employees calculate their unemployment benefits based on the previous year’s wages.However, Washington State does not count weekends and summer training. Therefore, some military individuals don’t get credit for their service when they become unemployed.
I am currently continuing to better learn my job and continue to expand the search for rural veteran’s communities. Admittedly, I have run into a lot of dead ends. Small counties have very few resources and often refer to other counties. In these coming months, I will be spending more time reaching out to the rural counties and exchanging resource contacts.
The Ira Hayes Veterans Fellowship is named in honor of the Native American World War II hero of Iwo Jima who returned to a life of poverty and neglect. The fellowship is funded by the Inland Northwest Community Foundation and donors to ULP.