Helping the Whole Veteran: Exploring the Value of Medical-Legal Partnership

Bob Woodruff Foundation Hosts Medical-Legal Partnership Convening, Releases New Issue of Stand SMART for Heroes on Same Topic

On May 3, the Bob Woodruff Foundation assembled medical and legal experts from across the public and private sectors in our nation’s capital for a day of panel discussions and working sessions. Hosted at the beautiful Jones Day offices in Washington, DC, this High Impact Collaboration™ event brought together 85 professionals, including practitioners involved in 23 medical-legal partnerships at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities, leadership from Departments of Veterans Affairs, and Health and Human Services, and advocates working to drive policy impacting our nation’s veterans and military-connected families and caregivers.

The Honorable James Byrne, General Counsel, performing the duties of Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, addresses the room

We were privileged to have the Honorable James Byrne, General Counsel, performing the duties of Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, provide the keynote for the event. Mr. Byrne reflected on his personal experience as a young attorney helping fellow veterans struggling with unresolved civil legal issues. He shared the immense relief he saw in them as their legal burdens were eased, allowing these veterans to pursue opportunities for a healthier life on the homefront. His powerful remarks resonated with the experts and advocates in the room, and kicked off a day of discussion and workshops centered around improving the lives of our nation’s returning service members.

The morning sessions framed the biomedical and mental health benefits of integrating attorneys into patient care. Our panelists addressed the barriers and opportunities that exist within federal policy to ensure that these models can continue to provide critical care to their patients and provide opportunity to thousands more by expanding medical-legal partnership across the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). The discussion covered critical aspects of these models including the evidence base, initial implementation, and patient advocacy and awareness. We were thrilled to see the room engaged in a passionate dialogue aimed at shaping the way veterans access civil legal support within VHA.

The afternoon continued with a presentation from Jones Day on their VetLex program, a platform designed to create an easy avenue for veterans to reach pro bono legal services and a means to connect a broad network of lawyers eager to provide those services. Jones Day partners with the American Bar Association to house and operate VetLex at the national level. This platform is an important tool to help ensure veterans experiencing hardships brought upon by unresolved civil legal issues have access to critical services.

The day ended in a series of workshops where the room previewed and provided feedback for the upcoming MLP readiness guide, created by the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership with a Bob Woodruff Foundation grant. We look forward to sharing the MLP readiness guide!

As a follow-up to the convening, we are releasing the most recent issue of the BWF Stand SMART for Heroes series that breaks down research on the efficacy of medical-legal partnership within VA. Initial findings point to the success of this model.

If anyone has any questions on this event or is interested in learning more about MLP, please feel free to contact BWF at grants@bobwoodruffoundation.org.


This event was held in partnership with the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership and in coordination with the Department of Veterans Affairs. We thank all the participants for their important contributions and the success of the convening.