Wilson Veteran Fighting Congress To Change Law
Posted May 27, 2002 4:27 a.m. EDT
WILSON, N.C. — A Wilson veteran claims the men and women who are protecting our nation need help from Congress. He said a law written more than 100 years ago to help veterans discriminates against them now.
Jim Richardson is on a mission to protect veterans from a law many of them do not even know exists. The law, he claims, means mountains of paper and molehills of progress.
"I'm not a lawyer. I don't know how to figure out this paperwork," Richardson said.
The former soldier said the old law forbids most veterans to hire lawyers when they file a dispute with the Veterans Administration. They can only hire a lawyer after they have been turned down. He has been fighting his own case for six years.
"We just don't have that right like everybody else does to be able to pick up a phone and hire an attorney and get them to help us with our claims. If we did, the process would be a whole lot simpler," Richardson said.
Richardson said Congress created the law after the Civil War to keep attorneys from taking advantage of soldiers just back from battle.
"Criminals, when they go to court, they have an appointed lawyer by the judge. That's constitutional. That's fair," he said. "But I can't call on a lawyer and get them to help me with my case and pay him because it's not legal to do that."
Betty Mathews' husband has been looking for better benefits since 1970. She said an attorney could have prevented the headaches.
"They know more than we do and like I say we fight and we fight and you finally give up because you feel like nobody's on your side," Mathews said.
That is exactly the feeling Richardson wants to prevent. Richardson believes Congress is hesitant to change the law because it would take money away from political projects.