Blizzards and slow public transportation didn’t stop our volunteers from getting out in the community and giving back during 2015. Take a look below for highlights from the BBA’s 2015 public service efforts:
Posts Categorized: Veterans
The Claflin Center at 16 Beacon Street was buzzing with energy last Thursday. Attorneys mixed and mingled and talked to one another about their shared experiences serving in the military. The event, which was chaired by former Navy Lieutenant John J. Regan (Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP) and retired Marine Corps Colonel William F. Sinnott (Donoghue Barrett & Singal, P.C), also featured a lively speech and Q & A with Congressman Seth Moulton, a former Marine Corps Captain who served four tours in Iraq. In particular, the Congressman discussed his own experience with the VA Healthcare System and his plans to help improve the system for veterans. He encouraged everyone in the room to focus on helping servicemembers transition from active duty.
This event aimed to build a community for servicemembers in the legal field to share common experiences and challenges. If you missed this event but want to get involved, don’t miss the follow up Veterans Meet & Greet Luncheon on January 29th at noon. Click here to learn more.
Take a look below for more images:
On October 28th, Judge Eleanor C. Sinnott addressed the members of the Boston Bar Association’s Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP). A former Navy officer, Judge Sinnott presides over Boston’s Veterans Treatment Court session in the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse, which launched in the spring of 2014. Designed to help treat military veterans arrested for crimes linked to trauma caused by their service, this is the first veterans court in Suffolk County and the second in the state..
Boston’s Veterans Treatment Court is available to members of the U.S. Armed Forces who face service-connected misdemeanor or felony charges in Suffolk County, and who have a service-related mental health issue, substance abuse problem, or other co-occurring disorders. The Veterans Treatment Court model requires regular court appearances, mandatory attendance at treatment sessions, and frequent and random testing for substance use (drug and/or alcohol). Judge Sinnott noted that Veterans respond favorably to this structured environment given their past experiences in the Armed Forces.
PILP member Michael B. Homer of Ropes & Gray LLP observed, “Having launched the Boston Veterans Treatment Court, Judge Sinnott was able to provide unique insight into the need for these specialty courts and the challenges such courts face. It was very encouraging to hear Judge Sinnott explain how, despite these challenges, her court is able to provide desperately needed services, mentoring, and an alternative to incarceration to those veterans whose criminal behavior is linked to service-related trauma.”
The collaborative multidisciplinary approach to rehabilitation that this court undertakes includes the judge, prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, probation officers and medical treatment providers from the VA and other community –based treatment providers. Together with the veteran and a special veteran peer mentor, rigorous treatment and probation plans are put into place, enabling the veteran to focus on sobriety, recovery and stability.
As the country turns its attention to veterans in preparation for observance of Veterans Day next week, we are grateful for the dedicated team in the Veterans Treatment Court, working to connect men and women with service-related criminal issues to the services and stability they so desperately need.
The BBA will be bringing together its own community of attorney-veterans for a special Veterans Day Reception at 16 Beacon Street on Thursday, November 12, 2015, at 5:00PM, hosted by veterans Bill Sinnott of Donoghue Barrett & Singal, P.C. and John “Jack” Regan of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP. The welcome address will be delivered by Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA-6). If you would like to join us, please email Katie D’Angelo at [email protected] .
Last Thursday, the Boston Bar Foundation’s Society of Fellows held an Open House that brought together current Fellows as well those interested in learning more about joining the Society. As our Beyond the Billable fans may remember, the Society is a group of more than 400 lawyers dedicated to supporting the BBF’s work of improving our community through public service and expanding access to justice for underserved populations.
In honor of Pro Bono Month, Anna Schleelein Richardson, Co-Executive Director of Veterans Legal Services (VLS), spoke about the positive impact of the BBF’s funding to support VLS’s work providing comprehensive legal services to veterans and military families and the prevailing unmet need amongst veterans for high-quality legal services.
“I have been continually impressed by this organization’s commitment to making sure veterans get the legal help that they need,” Anna told the crowd, noting that the BBA’s Military and Veterans Legal Help Line served more than 350 veterans and their families in the last year alone. “The BBF has supported VLS for over a decade.”
VLS is just one of the many community organizations that the BBF will support this year. In total, the BBF is granting $950,000 to 23 community organizations, helping thousands of individuals and families struggling with issues such as homelessness, domestic violence and other forms of injustice. This is in addition to the BBF funding the entire year’s portfolio of BBA Public Service Programs, including Law Day in the Schools and trainings to equip hundreds of attorneys to take on pro bono cases.
Anna noted that without the crucial funding provided by the BBF, the veterans she serves at VLS “are at risk of losing their homes, families or basic subsistence if they do not have access to representation.”
Thanks to the support of the BBF’s funding, VLS was able to assist nearly 450 veterans and their family members last year. The BBF’s work is made possible because of the continued commitment of the Society of Fellows. Click here to learn more about the work that the Society supports or click here to join the Society of Fellows today!
Did you know that there are currently 21.8 million veterans of the U.S armed forces?
The BBA is proud to host a special Veterans Day Reception on Thursday, November 12, 2015, from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM.
Led by past BBA President Jack Regan of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP and William Sinnott of Donoghue Barrett & Singal, P.C. – both veterans themselves – the event brings together legal professionals who share a history of military service, a connection to military service, or a dedication to serving veterans and their families.
“Bill Sinnott and I have been involved with veterans’ issues at the BBA for years,” said Regan. “Our work together has included asking the lawyers of Boston to step up and assist veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and their families, with a range of urgently needed legal services. This reception is a way to say thank you to those lawyers, and to pause — in the midst of our busy professional and personal lives — to recognize the sacrifices made by Massachusetts veterans for all of us.”
“I hope that attendees gain a greater understanding of the issues that veterans confront when they suddenly transition from a structured military life and the rigors of deployment to the open, unstructured environment of civilian life and the challenges of re-entry into a competitive workplace, while trying to leave the memories of war behind,” he continued. “Attendees would also gain an insight into the extensive work being done by the lawyers of the Boston Bar Association and related legal services organizations to assist veterans with that transition.”
Click here to register
Did you know that veterans who receive a less than honorable discharge may not be eligible for VA health care or other veterans benefits that they need to maintain a stable life? This past Tuesday, attorneys gathered at the BBA for training on how to best represent veterans in discharge upgrade cases.
Panelist Dana Montalto (Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School), Daniel Nagin (Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School), Major Susan Lynch (U.S. Army Reserve), Dr. Sandy Dixon (William James College), and Betsy Gwin (Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School) gave an in depth training that prepped attorneys with information about relevant military review board procedures and regulations. The attorneys who attended this training are now eligible to join the inaugural pro bono discharge-upgrade panel of the Veterans Legal Clinic of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School. The clinic allows attorneys and law students to represent veterans and their families in cases to obtain maximum stability and well-being.
Here is what panelists Dana Montalto and Dan Nagin had to say about why they believe it is important for attorneys to join the veteran’s pro bono discharge-upgrade panel:
“Despite a consistently high demand for assistance, remarkably few lawyers are available to represent veterans separated under less than honorable conditions in correcting that status and even fewer available to represent low-income veterans pro bono. By uniting the experience and expertise of the Legal Services Center with the dedication and civic-mindedness of private attorneys, the Veterans Justice Pro Bono Partnership can help close that gap. We look forward to working with the many attorneys who have joined to Pro Bono Partnership to ensure fairness and justice for those who served our country.”
“Providing pro bono representation to veterans who have unmet legal needs is our shared obligation as a profession. Veterans who unjustly received a less-than-honorable discharge are among the veterans who need our help. Providing pro bono representation in discharge upgrade and correction of military record cases can help restore honor to these veterans’ military service and remove barriers that deny them critical services and resources.”
If you missed the training but are still interested in getting involved, please contact Katie D’Angelo at [email protected].
Last week, attorneys gathered at 16 Beacon to learn about veterans’ rights in employment and education. The panelists, Jennifer Serafyn (U.S Attorney’s Office), Donald d’Entremont (US Department of Labor), Kate Upatham (Sanghavi Law Office), and James Downey (US Department of Labor), outlined the rights afforded to veterans and active duty military under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Here’s what panelist Kate Upatham had to say about the importance of this program:
“There are over 21 million veterans in the United States today, making us likely to encounter veterans in our work as lawyers. Members of our military give so much of themselves to our country, risking their very lives; it is the least we as lawyers can do to ensure that we are well versed in, and that we protect the rights of, our veterans.”
Last week’s program is part of the BBA’s continuing initiatives to increase access to justice for our military & veteran’s communities. Mark your calendars! On June 2, we are holding a training on Representing Veterans in Discharge Upgrade Cases. This training will guide attorneys through the process of helping less-than-honorable discharged veterans petition to upgrade their status. There is an enormous gap in legal services available to veterans facing upgrade cases, so we encourage you to sign up now.
If you are able to help veterans or active duty military members with employment cases, or in other areas of law, please contact Solana Goss at [email protected].
The BBA had another year full of public service. For a look back at our members’ work in the community, take a look at the photos below:
Last Monday, we heard from an impressive panel of speakers about the Veterans’ Treatment Courts of Massachusetts. The Honorable Mary Hogan Sullivan, Attorney Vanessa Velez from the Committee for Public Counsel Services, and Access to Justice Fellow Attorney Allan E. Taylor discussed how the treatment courts provide an alternative to incarceration. The Veterans’ Treatment Court coordinates support for veterans in the criminal justice system by connecting them with services and programs that address underlying service-related issues.
If you’re not familiar with the Veterans’ Treatment Courts, here’s a little background: Judge Hogan Sullivan brought the first Veterans’ Treatment Court to Massachusetts in Dedham, a model which will be replicated in 4 other counties in the state, and is already open at BMC. Veterans’ Treatment Court judges understand military culture, and how PTS, traumatic brain injuries, substance addiction, or military sexual trauma may fuel criminal behavior among veterans. The judges are assisted by an interdisciplinary team of providers, and mentors, including Veterans Justice Outreach Specialists, representatives from the State Department of Veterans Affairs, and former veterans who volunteer as mentors. More than 130 courts nationwide now have a Veterans’ Treatment session. To read more about the Veterans’ Treatment Courts, click here.
Our dedicated readers know about the BBA’s commitment to addressing the legal needs of our servicemembers, veterans, and their families through the Veterans and Military Helpline and Yellow Ribbon Events. One of the priorities of the BBA’s Active Duty, Family Members & Veterans Committee is to illuminate issues facing this population. Case in point– we have a program on military sexual trauma coming up on January 27th (click here for more information). We’ll keep you posted when similar programs are added to the BBA’s calendar.
This Veterans Day, we remember the past and ongoing sacrifices of the men, women and their families who have served our nation.
That’s why we wanted to share this Boston Globe article that sheds light on just how difficult navigating the VA system can be not only for clients, but for lawyers as well.
The article tells the story of a 59-year old Vietnam Veteran, and his difficulty communicating with the VA about his benefits. Despite serving his country bravely and honorably during a time of war, the veteran has encountered hurdles that would leave many too frustrated to overcome. Along the way, he has been helped by a pro bono attorney Steve Veenema, who now works at Murphy & King. Despite being proactive and communicating to the VA that he was receiving Social Security benefits for an automobile accident, the veteran was penalized for a VA error that was not his fault. Even his lawyer had difficulty being acknowledged by the VA in several instances, and found that the way that his client was treated by the VA system caused needless frustration and suffering. For the full story, we encourage you to read the whole article.
So what can you do to help? We receive calls daily though the BBA Military & Veterans Legal Help Line though the Lawyer Referral Service. If you or your firm is interested in receiving referrals from this line, please contact Solana Goss at (617) 778-1978 or [email protected]. You may have seen last week that 4 BBA sponsor firms have volunteered to accept pro bono referrals through the Help Line – hear from them why they stepped up to help military members, veterans and their families.
To read about the BBA’s impact with the military & veterans community over this past year, click here.