Rush reflects on the impact of military trauma, discusses the importance client education, and shares a truly unbelievable client story.
Paralegal Rush Evans has served TLSC's client population for the last ten years. As a critical member of our support team, Rush is the first point of contact for many.
His passion for his work is infectious. He works closely with his callers — not only to help address their primary issue — but also to educate them about additional resources and benefits for which they may qualify. In addition to serving as the backbone of client intake for veterans, Rush performs many other duties, from client outreach to researching and drafting military discharge upgrades.
On his love of veterans work
I'm not a veteran, but I consider it an honor to provide assistance to those who have served their country. I come from a media background, working many years in radio and television (I still do radio, actually, outside of TLSC). I'm not a lawyer, either, but in my time here, I've acquired a great deal of knowledge about the unique legal challenges that veterans face and the impact of post-traumatic stress on the lives of those who served. I'm proud to work on their behalf.
On one of his favorite client stories
In 2020, I spoke with the widow of a Vietnam War Navy veteran who spent seventeen years in a nursing home with ischemic heart disease, ultimately losing his life to it. Despite help from veteran advocates, she was unsuccessful in pursuing a VA widow's benefit based on service-related death. Ischemic heart disease is on the list of medical conditions presumed, in veterans of Vietnam, to have resulted from exposure to Agent Orange. Compensation depends on proving only that the veteran served in Vietnam and was diagnosed with one of the listed illnesses. Our client could prove her husband’s illness and death, but she could not prove his time in Vietnam. I asked the client what ship her husband served on, hoping its history would include time off the coast of Vietnam. Unfortunately, his discharge document did not name his ship, and the rest of his records were lost in the 1973 National Archives fire in Saint Louis, Missouri, which destroyed service files for thousands of service members. Therefore, our client was unable to identify her late husband's ship and could not prove his exposure to Agent Orange. I asked the client to assemble any other documents or letters she had that related to her late husband’s service. She had just a few, and she did gather them together. When our Managing Attorney Julian Honor reached her the next day, he asked her to read aloud from those documents. At one point, he heard the name "Ogden." Although Ogden was not explicitly mentioned as a ship, Julian knew that it was a ship, the USS Ogden. He googled the Ogden's history and found that it made numerous dockings in Da Nang during the Vietnam War, and crew members had transported supplies ashore there.
So for years, our client actually had a document that held the critical missing piece of her case for compensation — and no one realized it until our attorney spoke with her.
She will now receive a significant monthly check from the Veterans Administration for the rest of her life. I'm honored to have helped get assistance for this deserving client.
On client education and access to benefits
I find that veterans are not always aware of the benefits to which they might be entitled after they leave the service. There’s not a robust education of available benefits for service members when they’re being processed out of the military. They have to pursue that knowledge on their own, and many don’t know to ask someone about it. Most of our clients call us for other reasons, like family law matters, but if there’s a benefit that might assist them, we do educate them.
On discharge upgrades and military trauma
Our veterans program assists Texas veterans on a wide range of civil legal matters, my favorite of which is military discharge upgrades. I became fascinated with them some years ago, and I have now had a hand in writing several of them. I dislike it when service members receive something other than an Honorable discharge from the military when they really deserved an Honorable. Many of these veterans did indeed do something wrong to be ejected from the service, but in a number of cases, the behavior that ended their military careers was a by-product of trauma that they suffered in the line of duty. The pain of war is real and lifelong. Self-medication of trauma is often a desperate attempt to wipe away terrifying and traumatizing memories.
A discharge paper (DD214) that doesn’t say “Honorable” on it can harm the veteran for the rest of their life and prevent employment. For many service members, their DD214 is the closest thing they have to a resume when they get out. It's a very powerful piece of paper. Programs like ours are able to identify and prepare appropriate upgrade requests for deserving veterans, giving back to those who gave so much to us.