A few weeks ago, on January 6th, I, along with many other Tiger fans from Louisiana, made that long drive from Baton Rouge to Dallas. However, unlike most of those heading to Dallas for the weekend, I was not attending the Cotton Bowl. As a VA accredited attorney, it is always important to keep up with the latest law dealing with the VA. Therefore, while my fellow Tiger fans tail-gated and got ready for the big game, I was sitting in a conference room in Dallas attending continuing legal education classes about VA benefits. Since VA benefits is such a narrow area of the law, there are very few, if any, VA continuing legal education programs in New Orleans, Baton Rouge or other locations in Louisiana. Therefore, to bring myself up to date on the latest in VA law, I often have to travel. This all-day conference, entitled, “Special Forces: What’s Up at the VA,” included an update in the recent developments in VA case law dealing with compensation, pension (aid and attendance), changes in policies and procedures at the VA, trust planning in the context of veteran’s benefits, service-connected VA disability claims and problems with receiving VA benefits when the veteran or surviving spouse has been deemed incompetent by the VA. While most of the topics were refreshers for me as I have been practicing in the VA benefits area for several years, there were a few topics that made the drive from Baton Rouge to Dallas worthwhile. (And, my daughter, Sara, and I took a few days off after the conference to do some sightseeing in Texas which made the drive even more worthwhile.)
What truly made this conference different though were two segments presented by non-lawyers. One of these was presented by Elizabeth Kilbride, an author, who was embedded with marines in Iraq in the early days of the war. Ms. Kilbride wrote a book, “Soul of American Warriors,” that discussed her experiences in Iraq. The other speaker, Ed Rush, was a fighter pilot who flew many missions in Iraq. Both of these speakers gave some relief from the often dry legal topics but also made us realize who we are serving as VA benefits lawyers — the veterans who have served our country so proudly. So, a hat’s off to all of our veterans and go Tigers (maybe next time, if I am in the city where the Tigers are playing a bowl game, I will actually get to see the game).