Season 3 Episode 139: Advocating for Veteran Rights and Wellness with Chris McGhee
We welcome back Chris McGhee to give us an update on his career and advocacy work. After retiring from the United States Air Force in 2018, Chris moved to Maine and enrolled in law school. After earning his Juris Doctor in 2022, Chris began working as an attorney for Jackson & MacNicol. He is on track to earn his Master of Law degree by the end of the year. Chris is the host of the 20 Years Done podcast that focuses on organizational culture. This episode is dedicated to his advocacy work and his findings regarding the Air Force maintainers, their culture and their high rates of suicide.
While Chris was working toward his degree, he was spending dozens of hours a week on his advocacy work for veterans. He was submitting requests, producing podcasts, writing blogs and contacting people. Chris realized he had the opportunity to marry his love for the law and passion for veteran advocacy as a VA disability attorney.
When Chris left the military in 2018, he was very concerned at the new operational expectations being placed on personnel. He believed the effects of the 2014 sequestration played a role in the heightened suicide rates among the ranks. Between 2010-2014, the Air Force cut 10-15% of jobs in the maintenance career fields and consequently did not meet standards. Remaining personnel, including Chris, experienced major burnout. He used his podcast and blog to talk about the issue and caught the attention of Senator Angus King. When Senator King asked Chris to draft legislation, he put his schoolwork on hold and focused his attention on drafting federal legislation. Thanks to his perseverance, the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act now requires all the military services components to report to the House Armed Services Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee all suicides by job code for all branches and components from 9/22/2001 until present. This data will illuminate issues within the services.
As an attorney fighting on behalf of veterans for disability compensation, Chris’s job is to review claims for clients, ensure they meet appeal timelines and represent the clients in hearings for the Board of Veterans Appeals. Because Chris is a veteran, he is able to build an instant rapport with his clients and enjoys educating them in the appeal process.
Without the uniform, Chris has the ability through his podcast and blog to express his views on issues in the military. He recognizes that the best advocating often occurs when someone has recently left the military. As more time passes since his retirement, Chris is cognizant that he has less information about the current culture and experience and works hard to have recently separated and retired veterans share their experiences through his podcast and blog.
Preliminary data suggests that the top 3 career fields in the Air Force that experience more suicides per capita per year than other jobs are aircraft maintenance, security forces and intel. Although his advocacy window is closing with each passing year, Chris is grateful that his current position allows him to help veterans through the disability appeals process. It’s important to remember that Chris has volunteered his time and knowledge for veteran advocacy. While he has received no compensation for his part in the 2022 legislation, he recognizes that his volunteerism has made him a better attorney.
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Connect with Chris at https://www.linkedin.com/in/cmcghee358/
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