I've said it before: the Massachusetts Bar Association has a
long history of giving a voice to the underrepresented. Given some
of the events of the past few weeks, we have proof that people are
For starters, Gov. Deval L. Patrick recently signed into law
MBA-backed legislation creating a Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights.
Under the law increasing the minimum wage, he also passed an
MBA-backed proposal to increase burial benefits for workers'
compensation deaths. (See related story, this page.) This is not
only your government at work; this is the MBA at work, and you can
be proud of our efforts advancing laws like these that support
workers and their families.
In June you may have also seen the news that the One Fund
announced its protocol for the second distribution of charitable
funds to Boston Marathon bombing survivors. Under an earlier draft
of the protocol, some survivors with traumatic brain injury (TBI)
and hearing loss - the so called "invisible injuries" - appeared to
have been excluded from receiving any direct meaningful award with
the One Fund pledging only "programmatic support."
In response to the One Fund's call for public comment, the MBA
submitted a formal statement and hosted a press conference, which I
moderated, where survivors, TBI experts and representatives from
the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) spoke movingly about
their need to be included among those eligible for individual
financial awards. The One Fund appears to have taken to heart our
One week after the press conference, it issued a final protocol
that is more inclusive of all survivors, explicitly noting that
those with invisible injuries would qualify for a cash gift as well
as programmatic support. This is more than just an "editing job,"
as some have trivialized it. While the proof will be in the
pudding, we hope it represents a significant change that could, for
example, mean victims of invisible injuries might be compensated
for loss of earnings and pain and suffering.
I've spoken for decades about the need for greater awareness of
invisible injuries, especially TBI, which affects more than 2
million people per year in this country. This year, through our
support of marathon bombing victims, we've been more vocal than
ever in our support of this community. Moreover, we are proud that
all of our work for marathon survivors has been offered pro bono by
MBA volunteer attorneys.
We've come a long way to improve the image of lawyers this year,
and this is a struggle we must keep fighting. But I believe what
has happened in relation to TBI victims is more than just a
misunderstanding of our role; this is indicative of the greater
lack of empathy for the severity of TBI injuries.
Ultimately, it means that our work is not done. As long as there
are those who don't understand why we would support those with TBI
and other "invisible" wounds, there remains a need for our voice to
be heard. That is why I am in the process of creating a Brain
Injury Task Force, which I described back in March in this very
column. Through this we will educate, coordinate, collaborate and,
with the help of our lawmaker friends, legislate to improve
conditions for victims of TBI.
We are the preeminent voice of the profession, and our advocacy
truly makes a difference. It falls on us to make sure that our
voice stays strong for underrepresented populations like those with