Posts Categorized: Veterans

BBA Announces the New Veterans and Servicemembers Law Forum

The Boston Bar Association is pleased to announce our “Active Duty Military and Veterans Forum” has changed to the “Veterans and Servicemembers Law Forum”. We believe this name change more accurately describes its membership. 

The co-chairs highlighted the need to replace “active duty military” with “servicemembers” because the term servicemembers is both more inclusive and accurate for the forum. Servicemembers was selected because it is defined in the Servicemember Civil Release Act (SCRA) as including, but not limited to, all Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Space Force, and Coast Guard forces. This includes reservists and national guard who are often active but may not have been recalled to full-time duty.  

The Forum was formed in 2014 in order to, “further pro bono and public service initiatives that support [servicemembers]…, spotlight legal needs, serve as a network for current and former servicemembers in the legal profession and their families, and advise the BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service on its Military & Veterans Legal Help Line.” There are currently over two hundred active members of the Forum and the group annually hosts networking lunches and trainings on legal issues specific to Veterans and Servicemembers. The proposed name change would help clarify the inclusion of all servicemembers and those that support them, which upholds the goals and practices of the Forum. 

If you are interested in learning more about this forum, please contact Doug Newton at dnewton@bostonbar.org. 

Active Duty Military & Veterans Forum Reception

This past Tuesday, the BBA’s Active Duty Military & Veterans Forum held a reception ahead of Veterans Day to bring together members of the bar who are current members of the military, veterans, and their colleagues, and to honor those who have served. The event featured keynote speaker Harvey Weiner, Senior Counsel at Peabody & Arnold and a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, where he was an Army Captain and was awarded the Bronze Star (M), among other medals. Mr. Weiner is the National Judge Advocate of the Jewish War Veterans of America, the nation’s oldest active veterans’ organization, and a past Massachusetts Department Commander. He spoke candidly about his experiences in the Vietnam War and upon returning home, and discussed how throughout his career he has drawn on this experience to relate to and support others who have survived violence and trauma, including survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

The reception also kicked off the Forum’s 2019-2020 Active Duty Military & Veterans Mentoring Program, and offered an opportunity for participants in the program to meet their newly-assigned mentors. The program matches military-affiliated law students and new lawyers with more experienced military-affiliated lawyers, who offer career advice and guidance about how to navigate the Boston legal landscape. This fall, the Forum has matched 21 pairs of mentees and mentors through the program. The Forum is thrilled to provide this program, which recognizes the unique experiences of active duty military and veteran attorneys.

Active Duty Military & Veterans Forum Co-Chairs Mark Fitzgerald (Wilson Sonsini) and Jessica Hopton Youngberg (Veterans Legal Services) with keynote speaker Harvey Weiner (Peabody & Arnold) at Tuesday’s reception

BBA’s Military & Veterans Mentoring Program Now Seeking Mentors and Mentees

The BBA is seeking mentors and mentees for the 2019-2020 year of our Active Duty Military & Veterans Forum Mentoring Program.

Military-affiliated BBA Members with four years or more of experience in the legal profession can sign-up as mentors. Mentors will be matched with a law student or new attorney hoping to meet and learn from experienced legal professionals with military backgrounds. A mentor can offer guidance on resume writing or interview prep, as well as offer perspective on practicing law in Boston as a servicemember/ veteran. Law students and attorneys with less than four years in practice with military affiliation are invited to sign-up as mentees.

Mentors can sign up here.

Mentees can sign up here.

Contact Hannah Poor at hpoor@bostonbar.org with additional questions.

Attorneys Assisting Veterans Pro Bono Hear from Military Review Boards

The Boston Bar Association is proud to have hosted a training on representing veterans pro bono in military discharge upgrade cases this April. The training, sponsored by the Active Duty Military & Veterans Forum, offered volunteers and those working with veterans seeking discharge upgrades with the opportunity to meet and hear from the leaders of the military review boards. Joseph Masterson (Army Review Boards Agency), Elizabeth Hill (Board for Correction of Naval Records), Sean Schrock (Board for Correction of Naval Records), and Nicole Jackson (Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records), reviewed how their boards operate and how pro bono attorneys can best advocate for their veteran clients.

This presentation was the fifth annual pro bono training put on by the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, as part of its Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership. Dana Montalto (Veterans Legal Clinic) provided the training’s attendees with an overview of discharge upgrades and the Partnership, which connects local veterans seeking discharge upgrades with pro bono attorneys who want to give back to those who served in uniform. The Legal Services Center provides ongoing case support throughout the representation. Over the past five years, the Partnership has allowed more than 60 local veterans unjustly discharged from the military obtain pro bono assistance.

This pro bono assistance is critical because many of the men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces are cut off from veterans’ services and benefits because they were given a less-than-honorable discharge. They may have served in combat, experienced military sexual trauma, or have suffered physical or mental wounds, but are nevertheless unable to access much-needed treatment and support from federal and state veterans agencies because of their discharge status. In many cases, the origin of their need for support—for example, service-related post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury—also contributed to the conduct that led to their less-than-honorable discharges.

If you’d like access to the training’s materials, please email Francine Alexandre at falexandre@bostonbar.org. If you would like to get involved with the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership, please email Dana Montalto at dmontalto@law.harvard.edu.

Pro Bono Opportunity: Assist Veterans Seeking Discharge Upgrades

Established in 2015, the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership at the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School assists veterans seeking discharge upgrades. The partnership connects veterans to private attorneys and provides ongoing support and expert resources to those attorneys throughout the case. For the past four years, the BBA has hosted an annual training to introduce interested attorneys to this opportunity and bolster the skillset and knowledge of existing pro bono volunteers. The next training will provide attendees the chance to hear perspectives from the military board of directors for the Air Force, Army, and Navy. They will discuss how the boards operate and how pro bono attorneys can best advocate for their veteran clients. The pro bono training will also include an update about recent changes in the law. You’re invited to attend on Thursday, April 25th from 2:30 – 5:00 PM at the BBA. A networking reception with the Active Duty Military and Veterans Forum will immediately follow the training. Read more and register to attend here.

Note that this training will build on those from 2015-2018. Convenient videos and materials from past trainings are available through our Learn Online library’s dedicated pro bono and public interest page. Easily watch the videos and review the materials whenever your schedule permits and wherever works for you, whether at your office or on the go!

Interested in Providing Legal Assistance to Military Members & Veterans?

The Military & Veterans Legal Helpline is a core part of the BBA’s ongoing efforts to provide access to justice and crucial legal assistance to military members, veterans, and their families. Each year, the helpline, which is housed in the BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service, receives hundreds of calls from this population, and refers individuals to attorneys offering reduced-fee legal services as well as other legal service programs.

Last year, nearly 500 calls and requests came to the helpline, and we are looking for more attorneys to assist this population in all areas of law. If you are an attorney interested in assisting by providing reduced-fee legal services, please contact Solana Goss, Lawyer Referral Service Manager, at sgoss@bostonbar.org or 617-778-1978.

If you work with military service members, veterans, or family members of either group who are looking for legal assistance, please encourage them to call the Military & Veterans Legal Help Line housed at the Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service at 617-742-0625 or 1-800-552-7046. Individuals can also get referrals 24/7 through our newly launched online platform, www.bostonbarlawyer.org.

Veterans Mentoring Program Now Open for Enrollment

We are extremely proud to announce the Boston Bar Association’s new mentoring program for military-affiliated law students and new lawyers. This pilot program will match senior lawyers who are veterans or active-duty servicemembers with new and prospective members of the bar with military backgrounds.

The BBA’s Military and Veterans Forum exists to support military-affiliated lawyers and create connections between them, as well as support veterans legal services efforts. The forum’s members are also focused on developing pathways to success in the legal profession while leveraging the many positive professional attributes of attorneys with a military service record.

Former Military and Veterans Forum Co-Chair Jonathan Hayden, of Rackemann, Sawyer & Brewster, shared his thoughts on why the mentoring program is so important:

The skills and qualities a servicemember develops while serving in the military are incredible assets in a legal career, but former servicemembers at the beginning of their civilian legal careers often struggle to effectively present those assets to potential employers. 

The BBA’s Military and Veterans Forum Mentorship Program will connect military veteran law students, junior attorneys, and active duty servicemembers looking to begin legal careers in Boston with established local attorneys who are also military veterans and can help the mentees at the start of their careers as Boston attorneys. 

Mentors will also help to provide mentees with advice about navigating law school, crafting a resume that demonstrates the tangible benefits military experience offers in the legal environment, making career-development decisions, and learning to network within the Boston legal community.  We can all point to attorneys who were instrumental in helping each of us start our legal careers, and, by linking mentors and mentees with a shared experience of military service, the Mentorship Program will show the mentees that there are many people in Boston who want them to succeed and are ready to help.

To learn more about this program, or to sign up to be a mentor or mentee, please click here.

You’re also invited to attend the Forum’s next Meet & Greet Luncheon on Friday, Nov. 2nd at 12:00 PM at the BBA. For more info and to register, please click here

Attorneys Trained to Provide Pro Bono Assistance in Veterans Discharge Upgrade Cases

On May 22, members of the private bar gathered to learn about representing veterans pro bono in military discharge upgrade applications. Dana Montalto, Betsy Gwin, and Evan Seamone of the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School presented a comprehensive training for those who are interested in serving the veterans community. Their presentations offered a step-by-step approach to developing a persuasive petition, provided guidance about addressing common legal and practical challenges in discharge upgrade representation, and concluded with information about recent legal updates.

This presentation was the fourth annual pro bono training put on by the Veterans Legal Clinic, as part of its Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership. Through that Partnership, the Clinic connects local veterans seeking discharge upgrades with pro bono attorneys who want to give back to those who served in uniform and provides ongoing case support throughout the representation. Over the past three years, the Partnership has allowed dozens of veterans unjustly discharged from the military obtain pro bono assistance.

This pro bono assistance is critical because many of the men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces are cut off from veterans’ services and benefits because they were given a less-than-honorable discharge. They may have served in combat or have suffered physical or mental wounds, but are nevertheless unable to access much-needed treatment and support from federal and state veterans agencies because of their discharge status. In many cases, the origin of their need for support—for example, service-related post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury—also contributed to the conduct that led to their less-than-honorable discharges.

If you’d like access to a video recording of the training and its materials, please email Cassandra Shavney at cshavney@bostonbar.org.

Commissioner Giselle Sterling Highlights Boston’s Office of Veterans’ Services’ Accomplishments

On Tuesday, members of the Boston Bar heard from the City of Boston’s Commissioner of Veterans Services, Giselle Sterling, at a networking reception for members of the legal community who are current members of the military, veterans, and their families and friends. Commissioner Sterling is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran whose multiple deployments placed her in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Guam, Diego Garcia, and Japan. She was appointed as Commissioner in 2015 and since then has been working to connect more veterans to available resources.

With roughly 20,000 veterans living in Boston and over 200 organizations offering services to veterans and military families, Commissioner Sterling has spent the last three years helping to build the Greater Boston Veterans Collaborative. At the start of the Collaborative, Commissioner Sterling noted there were four organizations participating and that it has now grown to 202 non-profits, government organizations, corporations, and more. Her office is working with those organizations to create a resource network that will better connect veterans to everything that is available to them.

The City’s Operation Thank a Veteran volunteer program is another one of Commissioner Sterling’s initiatives that is bringing the veterans’ community together. Through face-to-face interactions, Commissioner Sterling, her staff, and numerous volunteers are able to thank veterans for their service and provide information about what the Office of Veterans’ Services offers.

Commissioner Sterling hopes to be able to expand the impact her office makes on the veterans community and she thanked the veterans in the room for their service and the attorneys who are working to assist veterans with their legal needs.

The reception was hosted at the Boston Bar Association by the Active Duty Military & Veterans Forum, which works to spotlight legal needs, serve as a network for current and former servicemembers in the legal profession and their families, and advise the BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service on its Military & Veterans Legal Help Line. If you have questions about the Forum or would like to become involved, please email Cassandra Shavney at cshavney@bostonbar.org

BBA Kicks Off Active Duty Military & Veterans Forum

Last month, the BBA’s Active Duty Military & Veterans Forum hosted a lunch for service members and veterans in the legal community, as well as attorneys currently working and volunteering with this population, to socialize, network and learn about the unique aspects of life for veterans and active duty military personnel who are college students.

Guest speaker Andy McCarty, Director of the Center for the Advancement of Veterans and Servicemembers (CAVS) at Northeastern University, spoke candidly about the path from the center’s inception to its actual opening on campus. McCarty is a Northeastern alumnus and a veteran himself, having served in the United States Air Force in Egypt and Qatar. Along with other staff members, McCarty sought to open CAVS to fulfill an unmet need on campus. Prior to CAVS, students with military involvement had to visit various offices and departments on campus to speak to staff about financial aid, housing benefits and other government programs designed to assist veteran students.

McCarty described CAVS as a “one stop shop” where students who have served or are serving in the military can access the resources they need. The CAVS staff is trained to understand the benefits available to these students from the government, and how best to apply them. They also help students navigate class registration and scheduling, balancing each student’s academic commitments with their commitment to the armed services. Their services are available to students pursuing both undergraduate and graduate degrees, including at Northeastern University’s School of Law.

By serving individual students and empowering them to get the most out of higher education, CAVS is designed to fulfill a broader mission. McCarty said the center’s ultimate purpose is to address the disproportionate unemployment rate among veterans.

“Our guiding philosophy is this: If we’re not preparing veteran students for a career after graduation, then what are we really giving them?” McCarty said.

To that end, CAVS also assists students with articulating their military experience in a resume, in a manner that relates to civilian jobs. From job interview coaching to emotional support, McCarty said CAVS offers a diverse array of services to veteran students and students on active duty, who may be having a hard time breaking into the job market or adapting to an office job once they are hired.

“It’s definitely a big adjustment to work in a civilian job,” McCarty said. “One thing we are always trying to do is open the lines of communication between veterans and non-veterans.”

At work, that means coaching employers on ways to bring up a veteran employee’s military service without putting the employee on the spot or making them feel uncomfortable. On campus, CAVS also works to integrate veterans into the overall community of Northeastern students.

After McCarty’s remarks, attendees had the chance to ask him questions and learn more about Northeastern’s work.

 

This luncheon was the first event for the Active Duty Military and Veterans Forum, which had previously organized as a committee within the BBA. Through its work, the Forum will spotlight the needs of active duty military personnel, reservists, and veterans within and outside of the legal profession.

To become involved in the Forum’s efforts, you’re invited to attend an upcoming pro bono training on Tuesday, May 22nd to learn the basics of representing veterans in discharge upgrade cases. If you’d like to receive more information on the training when it becomes available, please contact Cassandra Shavney at cshavney@bostonbar.org.