By Sophia Chapple, KellyAnn Romanych, and Antoinette Balta, Esq., LLM
Like many fellow Vietnam veterans, Scot Douglas dedicates his life to service and remembrance of others. His hardworking nature to bettering the lives of fellow veterans is exemplified by his journey from voluntarily enlisting in the Army during the Vietnam War to eventually pursuing law to close the justice gap for veterans and military families.
As a former probono-turned-staff attorney, Douglas has helped more than 1,200 veterans gain priceless peace of mind through his tireless work at Veterans Legal Institute (VLI).
In all honesty, Douglas did not want to be drafted. Despite pursuing his college degree, he was reclassified as 1-A (eligible for military service). This did not stop him from contributing to the Vietnam War effort. Instead of going the traditional route of waiting to get drafted, Douglas pursued his own niche – languages and linguistics.
While researching extensively to find a language school to learn Japanese, he found if he enlisted, the Army would offer him the opportunity to attend a language school. The only catch was he didn’t get to choose his language, and as such, was sent to Vietnamese Language School for 47 weeks instead. Due to his voluntary enlistment and language training, he was deployed to Vietnam where he served as a translator. Douglas continued to serve as a translator once he returned to CONUS (Continental United States) from deployment.
Douglas knew he wanted to pursue language learning before enlisting in the Army, however, whilst in the Army the true extent of his passion became clear. After being discharged from his first enlistment, he attended college to get a degree in Linguistics with a minor in Anthropology, simultaneously participating in the ROTC program. This allowed him to dedicate his time and expertise to the Army once again, and he served in the Army Air Defense and Intelligence units.
After a second discharge from the Army, Douglas went on to work for the United States Postal Service; another highly essential role in our country. Despite enduring multiple personal hardships during his time with USPS, he proved his resilience by completing an MBA through evening classes.
Once Douglas retired from the Postal Service, and with his wife’s encouragement, he decided to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and attend law school. At 62 years old he began law school – a testament to his dedication to learning and his continuous commitment to contributing to society.
Impressively, Douglas passed the Bar exams in both California and Arizona. His decision to volunteer with VLI was spurred by a talk he attended. Knowing homeless, disabled and low-income veterans desperately needed free legal aid, Douglas eventually began volunteering 5 days a week. Valuing his hard work and dedication, VLI offered Douglas a stipend and the flexibility to work remotely.
His work at VLI began with meeting exponential requests for assistance in veterans benefits, discharge upgrades, immigration, consumer issues, landlord-tenant matters and estate planning. Now, with the mentorship of VLI Board Member and pro bono attorney Sheila-Marie Finkelstein, Douglas specializes in estate planning, recognizing the importance of assisting his fellow veterans with this important legal area they would not normally consider.
Estate planning requires an unrelenting dedication as clients can face immediate concerns. In one pressing case, Douglas completed an estate plan for a veteran just weeks before he passed on, so his house would go to his son. In another, he fulfilled an immediate request for a Durable Power of Attorney, where he interviewed the client, drafted up the necessary documents, and sent them to the veteran the next day.
Douglas is an inspiring and compassionate individual who has shown unerring resilience and perseverance through his years of service to our nation. He is truly an exemplary individual, one we all can look up to, and VLI is extremely fortunate to have him in its ranks.
Join VLI and help provide free legal services to our veterans and military families. Together, we can greatly reduce veteran homelessness and suicide. To date, VLI has served more than 8,000 veterans and restored over two million dollars in veterans benefits.
To learn more please visit VetsLegal.org