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A Veteran’s Perspective: 5 Things to Know When Working with Veteran Clients

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By: Scott A. Sloss, 2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Thomson Reuters and Shearman & Sterling LLP

Photo of Scott A. Sloss

Being a veteran and working with veterans allows me to connect with my clients in a different way than non-veterans. While my bond is one of a shared experience, non-veterans can also establish a close rapport with their veteran clients. Establishing that connection begins like it would with any other client: listening to their story and finding common interests. These commonalities should ultimately develop into a trusting relationship. From a veteran’s perspective, there are some common misperceptions on how to create this bond. Here are five things you should know when interacting with veterans.

1: Be You!

One of the building blocks of trust is being genuine in who you are. Stay away from comments such as “I almost signed up” or “I always wanted to serve, but never did.” Non-veterans, who may have thought about serving, may feel that they can make a connection by sharing such thoughts. Although we understand what people are trying to do, the truth is, the non-veteran did not serve so there is no connection to be made through these types of statements. Comments like these are often seen as someone trying to be something they are not. Don’t compromise who you are in an attempt to relate to your client. Be honest and genuine with who you are. Veterans will appreciate you for being you, and your willingness to help them.

2: Women are Veterans too

Don’t fall into the stereotypical trap that veterans are old men, who wear ball caps, and tell war stories. The fact is, women veterans exist—and there are a lot of them—and they are often not recognized for having served our nation. Beyond recognition, women experience similar struggles men have in receiving appropriate medical care through the VA system. The VA system was originally designed to serve men, and this has created unique issues for women veterans to navigate. Don’t allow your misconceptions to cost you a chance to connect.

3: Listen to their story

Every veteran has a story to tell. This is especially true when you are talking with a veteran looking for assistance. Actively listen to their story to understand why the veteran is there and where they need your help.

4: Served vs. Veteran

Not everyone who has served considers themselves a veteran. The reasons vary, but some individuals do not want to identify themselves as veterans. When trying to identify a veteran ask, “have you served in the military?” rather than “are you a veteran?”

5: Know your Veteran resources

Navigating through all the available veterans benefits and programs can be a daunting task for any individual. Fortunately, there are many local and national organizations that are available to assist. Locate and learn about each of these organizations, and make connections with your local resources to establish a working relationship with them.

Being a veteran has benefited me in serving the veteran population. It has allowed me to establish trust and build relationships with my clients. Non-veteran lawyers can have the same impact. These five tips can help any non-veteran lawyer connect with veterans. But, regardless of the population your serve, be true to who you are and know who the client is that you are serving.

At Equal Justice Works, we are proud of Scott and other Fellows for helping veterans with their unmet legal needs. To learn more about Scott’s Fellowship, visit his Fellow profile here.

Regardless of the population your serve, be true to who you are and know who the client is that you are serving.

Scott A. Sloss /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow