Scalia Spotlights

Scalia Law Recognizes Military Appreciation Month

By: Henry Chen & Alexandra Morgan, Spring 2021 M-VETS Student Advisors

Alexandra Morgan & Henry Chen

In 1999, Congress passed legislation designating the month of May as National Military Appreciation Month—an opportunity to honor America’s veterans, current servicemembers, and their families. Several military-specific holidays occur in May, including Victory in Europe Day, Military Spouse Appreciation Day, Armed Forces Day, and Memorial Day. Throughout the month-long observance, citizens are encouraged to take time to reflect on the great sacrifices those serving have made to defend America’s freedom.

George Mason University Veterans Programs and Initiatives

Located in Northern Virginia near several major military installations, the George Mason University (GMU) prides itself on supporting our veterans and servicemembers, not only during the month of May, but year-round. Direct evidence of that commitment and support can be found in the Antonin Scalia Law School’s Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (M-VETS). M-VETS enables law students to assist servicemembers, veterans and dependent family members in a wide variety of matters ranging from Department of Veterans Affairs disability claims and discharge upgrades, to family law issues and landlord-tenant disputes.

Students work on both litigation and non-litigation matters that allow them to develop skills and practical experience to enhance their legal education while also giving back to the military community. Current M-VETS Student Advisor, David Zhang, noted how working with the Clinic has impacted his appreciation for the military community. “I have gained an even deeper appreciation for the sacrifices our veterans have made in defending our country,” Zhang said. “I am truly humbled to have the opportunity to serve those who have served.”

Since the Clinic’s inception in 2004, Student Advisors have assisted hundreds of clients and provided thousands of pro bono hours to veterans, servicemembers, and their families. Tino Giovanni, another current M-VETS Student Advisor, emphasized the benefit of participating in the Clinic. “My experience with M-VETS has helped me appreciate the diversity of experiences in the veteran community,” Giovanni said. “From needing assistance with wills to correcting administrative separation errors that prevent veterans from gaining full access to earned benefits, there is no shortage of fulfilling assistance the clinic offers.”

M-VETS is just one of many programs within the George Mason community that support the veteran population. The GMU Center for Psychological Services (CPS)—a community-serving psychological services office that serves as the primary training clinic for graduate students at GMU—often partners with organizations, such as M-VETS, to provide veterans with comprehensive mental health evaluations in support of their disability compensation claims. GMU’s Office of Military Services (OMS) provides personalized benefits counseling and admissions support to members of the military, veterans, and their families. The Hylton Performing Arts Center’s Veterans and the Arts Initiative facilitates engagement with the veteran community and the arts through performances, workshops, and special events.

In an effort to synergize the resources offered at GMU and connect with community partners to further enhance those services to the military community, the University formally established the Military, Veterans, & Families Initiative (MVFI) in the fall of 2020. “MVFI aims to leverage Mason’s strengths as the largest, most diverse public research university in the region to meet the needs of service members, veterans, and their families here at Mason, in the broader National Capital Region, and beyond,” said Dr. Keith Renshaw, Director of MVFI. The Initiative assists veterans, servicemembers and their families through education, direct services, workforce development and research.

How Can You Show Your Appreciation?

This May, join Scalia Law and the Mason community in supporting our veterans and servicemembers. There are several ways you can show your support!

Donate: Consider donating to an organization that provides services to veterans. Donations allow organizations to expand the scope and scale of services provided to veterans, servicemembers, and their families. Even small gifts can help pay for important expenses such as filing fees and postage costs for veterans in need of legal assistance. Currently, M-VETS is collecting donations in order to expand and add a third attorney to its staff. Contributions can be made online to a variety of GMU programs supporting veterans here.

Volunteer: Use your skills to support veterans by giving your time to organizations that rely on volunteers. Find out if your employer has a veterans’ initiative and provide pro bono services in your area of practice. Get in touch with organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) or your local American Legion to see if they need help with upcoming events.

Spread Awareness: Now that you’re aware of the services available to the military community through GMU, tell your friends! By spreading awareness, you are increasing community outreach and the possibility that a veteran or servicemember will get connected to crucial services. Be sure to remember the importance of recognizing those who have served and appreciate the unique culture and experiences that they bring to the community.

Enjoy Your Freedoms: Take some time to enjoy the freedoms we are afforded thanks to the many sacrifices of the men and women who serve or have served in the Armed Forces: walk your dog, call your family, buy a ridiculously overpriced coffee, express your opinion, say "hi" to your neighbor, walk your dog again!