March 3, 2017
During the 2017 ABA TECHSHOW in Chicago, March 15 – 17, Thomson Reuters Westlaw is proudly sponsoring the hackathon put on by Tech For Justice. The event is focused on developing community models and tools to improve access to justice for veterans and those who aim to support them. As a Yellow Ribbon Company, this initiative aligns perfectly with a goal of Thomson Reuters to proactively support service members and their families.
In preparation for the event, we sat down with Jeff Aresty, an instrumental leader in the Veterans Hackathon initiative, to better understand the need to create solutions to meet veterans’ legal needs in today’s world, and to find out what drives his passion for this work.
Why focus on veterans’ issues?
Jeff – Though veterans are a group who ostensibly have a lot of support systems in place to help them when coming back from deployment, a problem lies in the fact that the veterans are not well connected to these services. We in the technology community have a chance to make a real connection to existing solutions rather than having to start all the way from the bottom and create new solutions. This allows us to make an even larger impact.
In addition, veterans are mission oriented. So while we are able to introduce them to transformative solutions that will help them solve reentry issues, most veterans are concerned that society as a whole does not have access to justice. The opportunity to use their skills and talents to help others strongly resonates with them: they get it immediately. We believe we can give them opportunities to continue their mission to increase access to justice for all while helping their own justice needs.
Want to get involved with the hackathon? Sign up here>>
What are some of the biggest issues facing veterans in today’s world?
Jeff – The biggest issues facing veterans stem from the fact that to go into the military requires such a distinct re-socialization. Often when civilians enter into the military they do so without any real understanding of how this experience will change them, and when they return there is no socialization process to acclimate them back to civilian life. Our goal is to bridge the gap and offer them access to services that will allow them to adjust to new lives out of the military.
Other issues that the world faces are uniquely positioned for veterans to work on. For example, the U.S. veteran community has a unique relationship to the refugee crisis that is, arguably, the broadest and systemic problem facing the world today. The refugee population cries out for a humanitarian effort to ease the pain and generations-long damage being done by displacement, exploitation, and demonization. It also cries out for a way to determine who the refugees are, and whether they pose a likely threat to the societies into which they are being integrated.
Veterans relate to this crisis in two ways. First, they fought and were wounded, physically and emotionally, in the conflicts that in part added to the refugee crisis. Second, they above all citizens have shown a commitment to service and to the maintenance of security for our own society.
Hear real life stories from veterans dealing with justice issues. Watch interviews>>
What is the goal of the hackathon?
Jeff – The goal of the hackathon is not just to create new technological solutions to veterans’ problems, even if that does seem to be the surface level goal. Our real overarching goal is to use this hackathon to increase access to justice for all by catalyzing change for veterans’ justice needs. That then creates a movement that is dedicated to fixing veterans’ issues and serves as a beacon for all who need access to justice even after the hackathon officially ends.
Why is this cause so important to you?
Jeff – My dad was a veteran. He was one of the first of his battalion to liberate Paris in WW II. He received many honors in the war, but never talked about it. The only reason I know about it is because he documented his journey with pictures, journals, memorabilia, and letters that he put in a box in our attic. My younger brother found the box after he died and became our family historian. My brother is a lawyer, so he did his research as though it were a case in court, searching out missing facts and history to make our dad’s story come to life. Our dad was a member of one of the greatest generations that saved the world from annihilation by Hitler and his ilk. When they came home to the U.S. after the war, they were greeted with parades, love, and opportunity. Since then, and especially since Vietnam, our veterans have been treated the exact opposite of the veterans like my dad. It’s wrong. All veterans deserve the admiration of society and full support, yet we as a society have failed to do this.
The one area where I feel I can make a difference is to help veterans help others while helping themselves access a transformative form of justice that increases access to justice for all. The legal profession, which has been my home for 40 years, has a great opportunity to use technology and the rule of law to help all of society access opportunity and prevent problems. By working with veterans, who care as much about helping others more than themselves, we can develop new ways for veterans to use tools that will be of benefit to the entire world, and themselves, simultaneously.
DON’T MISS – hear from veterans whose stories have inspired the pursuit of improved solutions for access to justice. Watch interviews>>
How can people get involved?
Anyone can sign up to be involved in the hackathon happening March 11th-17th, whether you are an attorney, a veteran yourself or close to one, or simply feel passionate about veteran affairs.
You also can get involved by spreading the news, being cognizant of veteran’s issues and help in whatever ways you strive for change in your own life. And if you’d like to help support financially, you can do so here.