Posts Categorized: Veterans

Work on Veterans Discharge Upgrade Cases? Attend our Advanced Training on Building a Persuasive Case

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.

This program builds on the June 2015 introductory training and May 2016 advanced training on representing veterans in discharge upgrade petitions. The focus will be on how to build a strong evidentiary record to support a discharge upgrade application.

Attorneys who did not attend the June 2015 or May 2016 trainings are welcome to attend this advanced training. They are encouraged to watch the introductory training beforehand, which is available online. Please email Cassandra Shavney at [email protected] for access to those trainings.

After this seminar, attendees will know about new laws and policies affecting discharge upgrade practice and will better understand how to creatively and effectively gather and develop evidence in order to build a persuasive case to the military discharge review boards.

Attorneys who participate in the training will be eligible to join the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership (VJPBP), established in 2015 by the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School. Through the VJPBP, the Veterans Legal Clinic screens and refers veterans seeking discharge upgrades to private attorneys and then provides ongoing support and expert resources to those attorneys throughout the case. The generosity and efforts of VJPBP attorneys help to address the enormous gap in the provision of legal services to veterans and will provide much-needed advocacy to those who served the nation in uniform.

Law students are welcome but are not eligible to take pro bono referrals from the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership.

To register for this training, please log in and RSVP here.

After the training, the BBA will be hosting a Military & Veterans Networking Reception with guest speaker Secretary Francisco Ureña of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services. All are welcome to attend and should RSVP here.

Upcoming Veterans Meet & Greet Luncheon Will Feature Veteran Entrepreneurial Organization

The Boston Bar Association’s Active Duty Military, Family Members, and Veterans Committee will host its next Military and Veterans Meet & Greet Luncheon on Thursday, March 23rd from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM. Current members of the military, veterans, and their families and friends in the legal community are invited for lunch at the BBA. This is an opportunity to meet your fellow attorneys who served in the military and attorneys currently working in veterans legal services.

We’re excited to welcome two speakers from the Veteran Entrepreneurial Training & Resource Network (VETRN) to speak about their organization. Leland Goldberg (Founder) and Marie Shirley (Program Manager) will discuss VETRN’s work training veterans with the skills necessary to manager a successful small business. Veterans in their program participate in a six month program that provides the knowledge needed to grow their business. To learn more about the VETRN program and how you can volunteer as a mentor, attend our luncheon on March 23rd!

To register for the event, please visit our website here.

A Year in Photos – Public Service in 2016

From teaching over 1,500 students their Miranda Rights to instituting a Bar Exam Coaching Program, 2016 was a successful year at the BBA. For highlights and our favorite photos from the year, read on to see how you and your colleagues contributed to our public services initiatives in 2016.

Over 1,000 guests attended the 2016 John and Abigail Adams Benefit at the Museum of Fine Arts. Each year, our premier fundraiser provides support for the legal services organizations in our community. We're grateful for the over $600,000 raised in 2016.

Over 1,000 guests attended the 2016 John and Abigail Adams Benefit at the Museum of Fine Arts. Each year, our premier fundraiser provides support for the legal services organizations in our community. We’re grateful for the over $600,000 raised in 2016.

Molly Baldwin, Executive Director of Roca, accepts the 2016 Public Service Award on behalf of the organization. Roca was recognized for their work reducing recidivism and improving employment rates for young men in Massachusetts.

Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, addresses the crowd at Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Each year, hundreds of private attorneys and civil legal aid advocates converge on the Massachusetts State House to demonstrate their support for state funding of civil legal aid.

Anuj Kheterpal, Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, leads a session of the Reentry Education Program at the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts. Presenting on topics ranging from family law, affordable housing, and CORI sealing, the Reentry Education Program provides useful information and resources to probationers in our community.

The BBA’s Military and Veterans Committee works throughout the year to both address the legal needs of our veterans community and also provide a space for attorneys who have served or are serving in the military the chance to connect. Luncheons held throughout the year provide an informal, conversational means for veteran attorneys to connect.

One of the most anticipated events of the year is always the BBA’s Casino Night for Summer Jobs. Inside the BBA, the rooms are transformed into a functioning casino spaces for guests to enjoy throughout the building. All proceeds from the event support our Summer Jobs program. Specifically, donations allow high school students the opportunity to work at legal services organizations, courts, and government agencies that may not otherwise have the resources to hire a student.

For over ten years, the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy program has taught high school students financial responsibility. Above, students from Peabody Veterans Memorial High School visit Judge Joan N. Feeney’s courtroom to learn the consequences of filing for bankruptcy.

Members of the Boston Bar Foundation’s Society of Fellows gaze at an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts last spring. The Society of Fellows is a group of over 400 attorneys who’ve pledged their support for the BBA’s public service initiatives.

An active group within the BBA, the New Lawyers Public Service Committee plans nearly monthly volunteer events for attorneys to give back to their community through direct service. Here, BBA volunteers are working with the Charles River Watershed Association to clean-up the banks of the Charles River.

As part of the annual Law Day activities each spring, the BBA hosts its Law Day in the Schools program through which attorney volunteers introduce students in kindergarten to 12th grade to the legal profession and legal issues. In 2016, Law Day in the Schools focused on Miranda Rights, which seemed especially to resonate with students during a year marked by discussion of the balance of power between law enforcement and citizens.

At the 2016 Law Day Dinner, former BBA President Jack Regan, WilmerHale, was presented the Thurgood Marshall Award for his commitment to public service. Regan has tirelessly worked to support pro bono services for military personnel, veterans, and their families.

The John G. Brooks Legal Services Award was presented at Law Day Dinner to Daniel Nagin, founder of the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School. Nagin also helped start the Low Income Tax Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.

Pairings: A Gourmet Evening for Public Service supports all of the public service programs of the BBA. Guests of the event are treated to delicious dishes from area restaurants while learning about the programs their contribution supports.

Throughout the year, the BBA hosts numerous pro bono trainings on a range of practice areas. We partner with many legal services organizations to connect our members to their pro bono opportunities. Above, attorneys lead a training on how to volunteer for the Family Law Court Clinic at the Court Service Center.

Massachusetts State Senator Jamie Eldridge addresses the audience at the BBA’s Juvenile Restorative Justice Program. The symposium focused on restorative justice initiatives in the Commonwealth as particularly related to the state’s youth. This event was the culmination of the 12th Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) class’ 14-month program. PILP promotes civic engagement and public service by advancing the leadership roles of new lawyers. Throughout the program, the class examines various issues facing our community and concludes with a symposium of entirely their design.

Summer is a beloved time at the BBA because it means that law firms, courts, government agencies, and legal services organizations across the city will host high school student interns as part of our Summer Jobs Program. Students gain valuable insight into the legal profession and office work experience as they intern during their summer break. Students are also provided Enrichment Seminars, which enhance their experience and provide exposure to various legal careers, the workings of the Supreme Judicial Court, and more.

Janet Bostwick, Janet E. Bostwick, PC, was acknowledged this past year for her devotion to the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program. Bostwick was appointed head of the Financial Literacy Committee by her dear and late friend, M. Ellen Carpenter in 2004 and has since grown the program to teach over 500 students a year. Bostwick stepped down from the Committee after 12 years and we’re thankful for her service.

Law students and attorneys met with various legal services organizations and government agencies as they browsed the Pro Bono Fair & Open House in October. The event draws scores of people each year and provides organizations the chance to attract new volunteers.

BBA President Carol Starkey, Conn Kavanaugh Rosenthal Peisch & Ford, LLP, meets with Katy Buckland, principal of UP Academy Boston. The BBA President participates in Principal for a Day each year to gain insight into the day-to-day activities of the students many of our public service programs impact.

 

Thank you for a wonderful year, we can’t wait to kickoff 2017 with you!

PILP Introduced to Veterans Initiatives in Massachusetts

Veterans Treatment Court Judge Eleanor Sinnott during a session.

Coinciding with Veterans Day in November, the Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) heard from two prominent veterans’ advocates in the Commonwealth. First, the group met with Judge Eleanor C. Sinnott who presides over Boston’s Veterans Treatment Court. The court, which began in 2014 under her guidance, is one of five in the state and like the others, seeks to help veterans who’ve found themselves in the court system. Through the voluntary program, which accepts 15-20 cases at a time, veterans are matched with a volunteer peer veteran mentor that helps guide them through the 12-24 months. Those mentors support the veteran as they complete extensive counseling, drug and alcohol treatment, needs assessments, court hearings, and more. At this time, none of the participants have been court-involved since graduating the program. Judge Sinnott, a veteran herself, is very aware of the special needs of our veterans community. She noted the difference between military and civilian culture and the strong support system that exists amongst veterans. The mentorship component of Veterans Treatment Court is perhaps its biggest key to success. For those interested in learning more about the Veterans Treatment Court or who would like to refer a case to the court, please click here.

PILP also heard from Francisco A. Ureña, Secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services. Secretary Ureña discussed their programs related to financial assistance, Soldiers’ Homes and state cemeteries, and advocacy and outreach. The department works closely with Veterans Legal Services and the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, connecting veterans to their pro bono services. Additionally, Secretary Ureña identified homelessness as one of the department’s top focus areas, as well as general outreach to the veterans population of Massachusetts to alert them of their services. The Secretary urged PILP to learn more about how they can assist veterans through pro bono work.

If you would like information on how to perform veterans pro bono work, please email Cassandra Shavney at [email protected]

Veterans Luncheon Highlights Educational Opportunities

Bill Ferguson, Veterans Upward Bound, explains how the program supports veterans in Massachusetts.

Bill Ferguson, Veterans Upward Bound, explains how the program supports veterans in Massachusetts.

At the BBA Veterans Meet and Greet Luncheon last week, William Ferguson, Academic and Career Advisor for Suffolk University Veterans Upward Bound (VUB), went over some factors that hold veterans back from obtaining a secondary education and how VUB can help.

Veterans Upward Bound provides counseling, mentoring, tutoring and academic instruction for veterans. In preparation for college, participants also learn about financial literacy and career planning. The steps that Veterans Upward Bound lays out allow prospective students to refine their goals and develop a specific plan for their education, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the specific benefits provided by the GI Bill.

Veterans eligible for VUB must be low-income or a first generation college student, must have served 180+ days of active duty military service, and must have a military discharge status other than dishonorable or have been discharged due to a disability connected to their service.

Ferguson encouraged attendees to spread the word about the program, which is housed at Suffolk University but run by the U.S. Department of Education. Since the program is federal, participants are not required to apply to a specific college or university. If you would like to read more on VUB at Suffolk University or apply for the program, please visit this page.

The luncheon was part of an ongoing series of events hosted by the BBA with the aim of connecting veterans and active duty military personnel in the legal profession. If you are interested in getting involved with the BBA’s Active Duty Military, Family Members, and Veterans Committee, please contact Cassandra Shavney at [email protected].

Jonathan Hayden, Rackemann, Sawyer & Brewster and Co-Chair of the BBA Military & Veterans Committee converses with luncheon attendees.

Jonathan Hayden (center), Rackemann, Sawyer & Brewster and Co-Chair of the BBA Military & Veterans Committee speaks with luncheon attendees.

New BBA Veterans Committee Co-Chair Appointed          

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The BBA is excited to welcome Jonathan Hayden, a veteran who served for four years as a Captain in the U.S. Army JAG Corps, to his new post as a co-chair of the BBA’s Active Duty Military, Family Members, and Veterans Committee.

Hayden joined Rackemann, Sawyer & Brewster as an associate last year. He concentrates his practice in real estate law, representing commercial mortgage lenders and assisting clients with development and permitting matters. He will serve alongside Harvard Law School Professor Daniel Nagin, who serves as Vice Dean for Experiential and Clinical Education and Faculty Director of the Veterans Legal Clinic of the WilmerHale Legal Services Center.

The committee’s charge is of personal importance to Hayden based on his military experience and his work as board member at Veterans Legal Services in Boston.  As a co-chair, he hopes to expand the BBA’s existing work to connect veterans with legal assistance and support veterans in the legal profession.

“There are so many veterans in the legal community, and many have vastly different military experiences,” he said. “There are attorneys who enlisted in the military before they went to college and law school. We also have people more like me, who finished school, spent time in the military, and then moved to Boston for the next phase of their legal careers.  Regardless of the differences in our military experiences, one thing I think we all share is a desire to help other veterans who have not been as fortunate.  Studies show unmet legal needs are one of the root causes of veteran homelessness, and the committee’s work can do a lot for the local veteran population.”

From February of 2010 to March of 2014, Hayden served first on the staff at West Point and then as a prosecutor at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. By taking this unique path, Hayden said he was able to gain a lot of experience handling criminal cases straight out of school, an opportunity most attorneys don’t get.

“In my first four years as an attorney, I did a lot of things that my friends from law school did not get to do,” he said. “I’ve lost count of the number of jury trials I handled as a prosecutor. I advised high-ranking military officers. The confidence and attention to detail necessary for my work as a JAG attorney were great preparation for my legal career in Boston.  I am lucky that I got to do it.”

Two years ago, Hayden discovered the BBA’s Active Duty Military, Family Members and Veterans Committee and was pleased to have the chance to network with other attorneys with military backgrounds.  Hayden said for attorneys entering the legal field after serving in the military, the chance to speak with other veterans about how to best transition to a career in Boston can be a significant asset.  At BBA luncheons veterans have the opportunity to reminisce about their military experiences, discuss challenges in the legal field, and learn about opportunities to serve the local veteran population.

“For those of us who are now settled into our careers in Boston, the opportunity to network with fellow veterans can be incredibly helpful as we move forward in our careers,” he said.

The BBA’s next Veterans Meet & Greet Luncheon is this Friday, and will feature remarks from guest speaker William Ferguson, Academic and Career Advisor for Suffolk University’s Veterans Upward Bound program.

Attorneys, Military Leaders Hold Training on Helping Veterans Barred from Receiving Benefits

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Since World War II, millions of soldiers have received a “less than honorable discharge” from the United States military.

While it may not be something that many people think about every day, many veterans are ineligible to receive benefits due to their discharge status. Of 22 million military veterans in the country, 380,000 of them currently reside in Massachusetts. Last week, a panel of professionals dedicated to helping these veterans get the help they need held a panel discussion at the BBA.

The training focused on the legal means available to veterans to challenge the status of their discharge. According to Dana Montalto, an attorney at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School who focuses on veterans’ issues, there are many reasons why veterans seek a discharge status upgrade.

For some, “It’s personal,” she said. “Serving your country is honorable.”

In many cases, veterans with a less than honorable discharge are barred from receiving benefits from the VA, and if they are disabled, their families and communities are tasked with filling the gap.

“It’s a national trend that more and more attorneys are beginning to take on these cases,” Montalto said, highlighting the need for more attorneys with the proper training.

The panel also included Scott Thompson, Executive Director of the Board for Correction of Naval Records, Joseph Materson, Senior Legal Advisor to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records, and Evan Seamone, Major and Senior Defense Counsel, U.S. Army Reserve, who is a professor at Mississippi College of Law.

Veterans, Benefits and Discharge Status: How Attorneys Can Help the Wrongfully Excluded

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The BBA would like to highlight a paper authored by Dana Montalto, Staff Attorney & Liman Fellow at the Veterans Legal Clinic of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, a BBF grantee.  The paper, titled Underserved: How the VA Wrongfully Excludes Veterans with Bad Paper, highlights how 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 and have suffered physical or mental wounds, but are excluded access to much-needed treatment and support from federal and state veterans agencies because of their discharge status.

We hope you take time to read the paper here, but these are four takeaways:

  • Veterans with bad paper discharges are twice as likely to commit suicide and at a much higher risk of becoming homeless.
  • Veterans are four times as likely to be denied services and benefits today as during World War II. According to the paper, the devastating uptick is due almost entirely to the VA’s own discretionary policies, not any statute.
  • 90% of post-2001 veterans with bad paper discharges haven’t been reviewed for eligibility by the VA, and are categorically turned away from healthcare and housing services.
  • The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps each have its own separation regulations and policies, with significant disparities. Thus, service members who engage in similar misconduct may receive different treatment.

Veterans with a bad-paper discharge must first apply to the VA to receive a Character of Discharge review or to the military review boards for a discharge upgrade, and that’s where lawyers can help.

To find out more about how you can get involved and assist veterans with their COD reviews, please mark your calendars for May 18th from 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM for a training session at the BBA designed to help lawyers handle discharge status upgrades.  For more information, and to register, please click here.

Lawyers, Veterans Build Community of Peers

Judge Daniel Driscoll spoke to attorneys at the Veterans Meet & Greet Luncheon about administrative law judge opportunities for attorneys with military backgrounds.

Judge Daniel Driscoll spoke to attorneys at the Veterans Meet & Greet Luncheon about administrative law judge opportunities.

On January 29th, attorneys who served in the military once again gathered in the Claflin Center (You may remember the BBA’s Veterans Day Reception, featuring Congressman Seth Moulton, in November). This event, called the Veterans Meet & Greet Luncheon, was the first of a series of lunchtime events scheduled this year aimed at bringing attorneys who served in the military and their allies together to build a community within the BBA.

The Veterans Meet & Greet gives attorneys with military backgrounds an opportunity to connect in an informal, relaxed setting.

The Veterans Meet & Greet gives attorneys with military backgrounds an opportunity to connect in an informal, relaxed setting.

Here’s what BBA Military & Veterans Committee Co-Chair Dan Nagin (Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School) had to same about the events:

“The luncheons provide a wonderful opportunity for veterans to come together at the BBA in an informal setting, but where much can be accomplished.  The luncheons are intended to help strengthen the sense of community for veterans within the legal profession, to promote mentorship relationships, and to provide a conduit for information about resources for veterans and the BBA’s many pro bono initiatives for local veterans and servicemembers with unmet legal needs.”

If you’re interested in attending an upcoming luncheon, check out the dates below and click on the links below for more information:

Friday, April 8, 2016 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
Thursday, July 14, 2016 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
Friday, October 14, 2016 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM

Veterans Meet & Greet Luncheon

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Are you disappointed you missed the BBA’s Veterans Day Reception in November featuring Congressman Seth Moulton? Don’t worry! There’s another opportunity coming up to meet your fellow attorneys who served in the military.

Join the Boston Bar Association’s Veterans Committee, current members of the military, veterans, their families and friends in the legal community for lunch at the BBA on January 29th from 12- 1 pm. Click here to register.