Seeking justice for veterans: Captain Tanya Mayes J.D. ’03
“I am not one of those who dreamed as a young adult of going to law school and seeking justice for all,” said Captain Tanya Mayes J.D. ’03. “I did not even enter law school until later in life.”
The mother and member of the Army Reserves received a LAMP Distinguished Service Award on June 10 for her work spearheading the establishment of a free legal clinic for wounded warriors and qualified veterans at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center.
Recipients of the LAMP awards are individuals and units who set the bar for military legal assistance by pushing themselves and their practices in extraordinary ways.
More than a decade ago, Captain Mayes was a Military Police Officer in the Army Reserves who planned to work in federal law enforcement. While working on her criminology degree at Florida State University, a couple of classes in legal writing piqued her interest. She took the Law School Admission Test at the prompting of then State Attorney Jim Appleman, scored well on the test, and applied and was accepted to Stetson law school. At the end of her first year of law school at Stetson, Mayes was deployed to Bosnia as an Army Reserve Military Police Officer. After a year away from law school, Mayes returned to finish her law degree at Stetson. She began practicing in the workers compensation field, later joining the JAG Corp in 2009.
“I have done many different things as a JAG attorney, but by far the most rewarding work I’ve done is with legal assistance at the VA,” said Mayes. Mayes, who is stationed in the Army Reserves in Virginia as a judge advocate, identified a complication in the provision of legal services at the local VA Center that was negatively impacting both active military members and qualifying veterans.
“Most VA hospitals receive their legal assistance support from active duty Legal Assistance Offices,” Captain Mayes explained. “Unfortunately, these offices are often far away and/or fully engaged on their installations. These challenges coupled with the fact many of the patients at the VA centers are not mobile can make the delivery of legal assistance services to our Wounded Warriors, retirees and veterans difficult.”
Facing this challenge head on, Mayes established a program to fill the gap and provide veterans at the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia, with legal services. The program uses the resources of the US Army Reserves Office of the Staff Judge Advocate at the 80th Training Command (TASS) and volunteer members of the Virginia Bar Association to meet veterans’ legal needs.
Asked why she sees the need to help wounded warriors and veterans, Mayes recalls an encounter with a badly injured young soldier, the same age as her own son, being treated at the McGuire VA Medical Center Polytrauma unit who was in need of legal assistance.
“On my last visit with this Army Scout, he stands with the aid of his father and salutes me,” Captain Mayes recalled. “I have never been so humbled in all of my life. If there has ever been a soldier that deserved a salute it was that wounded warrior and not me. This is only one of the many many soldiers and qualified veterans we have been able to assist at McGuire. ”
“From the young wounded warriors striving to return to service, to the WWII Veteran that still has his military photo above his nursing home bed, each and every one touches us in a different way and reminds all of us in the 80th Training Command SJA office just why we get up every morning and put this uniform on,” said Captain Mayes.
Post date: June 15, 2016
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