From teaching a record 1,700 students through Law Day in the Schools to releasing a compelling report on criminal justice reform, 2017 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 service initiatives over the past year.
Posts Categorized: Veterans
Jon, an associate at Rackemann, Sawyer & Brewster, is entering his second year co-chairing the committee and currently focuses his practice on real estate law. Prior to joining Rackemann, he was an associate with a Boston commercial litigation and real estate firm. After law school, Jon served four years on active duty as a Captain in the U.S. Army JAG Corps, serving as a criminal prosecutor for the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C., and as an administrative law and legal assistance attorney for the United States Military Academy at West Point. Jon received the Army Commendation Medal twice and the Army Achievement Medal while serving in the U.S. Army.
Jessica Hopton Youngberg
A staff attorney and Skadden Fellow at Veterans Legal Services (VLS), Jessica assists low-income veterans through the VLS clinics at the Bedford VA Medical Center, the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, and the New England Center & Home for Veterans. She assists clients with a variety of civil matters, including landlord/tenant, public benefits, consumer debt, and family law. Before joining VLS, she served as a law clerk to Magistrate Judge Charles B. Goodwin in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. Jessica previously worked with VLS as a summer intern during law school and worked with the Red Cross while living in Korea during her husband’s service in the Army. This will be Jessica’s first year as committee co-chair.
To learn about the work of the committee and to become involved, please contact Cassandra Shavney at [email protected]
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.
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.
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.
Thank you for a wonderful year, we can’t wait to kickoff 2017 with you!
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]
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].
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.
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.
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.