Posts Categorized: Veterans

Exploring Justice for Servicemembers: A Look at the Massachusetts Veterans’ Treatment Courts

At last Monday's brown bag, attendees learned about the Veterans' Treatment Court thanks to the help of an expert panel.

At last Monday’s brown bag, attendees learned about the Veterans’ Treatment Court thanks to the help of an expert panel.

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.

To see other recent Beyond the Billable posts about our Veterans Initiative, click here.

Veterans Face Challenges Navigating the System – How You Can Help

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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.

 

Rep. Tsongas Speaks at 16 Beacon

U.S. Representative Niki Tsongas spoke with a group at the BBA about her work to combat military sexual trauma.

U.S. Representative Niki Tsongas spoke with a group at the BBA about her work to combat military sexual trauma.

Attorneys gathered in the Claflin Center last night for an intimate discussion with Congresswoman Niki Tsongas on her work and commitment to combating military sexual trauma. Just in case you missed it, Beyond the Billable has the highlights for you.  Rep. Tsongas serves as the top Democrat on the subcommittee for Oversight and Investigations on the House Armed Services Subcommittee. As the daughter of an Air Force Colonel, issues affecting military personnel are close to Rep. Tsongas’s heart. She has been a champion in the fight against military sexual trauma—drafting legislation to combat the issue and to respond to the needs of victims.

Beyond the Billable checked in with Anna Richardson, the co-chair of the BBA Active Duty Military, Family Members & Veterans Committee and co-executive director of Veterans Legal Services, to hear her thoughts about the program. Here’s what she had to say:

What should people who did not attend last night know about Rep. Tsongas’s work on this important topic?

“Before Congresswoman Tsongas began tackling this issue, sexual assault in the military was often not viewed as the crime that it is. The Congresswoman’s bipartisan efforts over the last seven years have helped to change that culture, create accountability, and hold our military to the high standard our service men and women are entitled to expect as they serve our country.”

 Why should attorneys come to the follow up panel in October?

“While Congresswoman Tsongas is working to address this issue at the national level, our panelists in October are facing it head-on to ensure individual veterans receive justice. They are working to meaningfully implement the systemic reforms Congresswoman Tsongas has spearheaded, and to create a culture of accountability by prosecuting perpetrators and advocating for survivors. Join us to learn about their impressive efforts and how you can help.”

Do you want to learn what you can do to help combat sexual military trauma? Don’t miss the upcoming program on October 22nd from 2-6 pm called “Responding to Military Sexual Trauma: What You Can Do.” Click here to register.

One Year Later: The BBA Military & Veterans Legal Help Line

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Solana Goss – Lawyer Referral Service Intake Coordinator

For the past year, I have had the opportunity to work firsthand expanding the BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service’s reach to service members, veterans and their families through the Military & Veterans Legal Help Line. September marks the one year anniversary that the Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) has housed the help line, which was developed in 2011 to connect this underserved population with the legal resources they need.  As the Intake Coordinator of the BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service, I connect hundreds of callers per week with attorneys, legal services, and community organizations. Whenever I pick up the phone and the caller identifies as a disabled veteran struggling to pay their mortgage, or an active duty military member facing family law disputes, I am reminded of the strength, courage, and dedication that these individuals put forth to serve our country.  That this need exists so prevalently in our society helps motivate me to do what I can to improve access to legal services for the individuals and their families who served our nation.  I leave each call remembering that there is more than we can do for veterans. Instead of just thanking veterans for their service, I am fortunate enough to show my thanks by offering and connecting them with assistance. The legal community has the opportunity to show their thanks and appreciation for the sacrifices of service members in another way – by agreeing to take cases on their behalf.

Goss_Solana2The BBA and the Lawyer Referral Service has made considerable progress through the Legal Help Line this year. Since September 2013, we have connected 340 active-duty military, veterans, and their families to lawyers and legal services, a 161% increase in the amount of individuals that we were able to serve than the year prior. The LRS maintains a panel of attorneys who are trained to understand the nuances of representing this population, and our Active Duty, Family Members and Veterans Committee is ready to address new challenges in the year ahead.  Despite this great success, we still need more attorneys to take cases. If you are an attorney who wants to help support the BBA’s Military & Veterans Legal Help Line, contact me at [email protected], or the BBA’s Public Service Manager Sonia Shah at [email protected].

The BBA has an ongoing commitment to support service members and their families…so what’s next? On September 23rd the BBA will host the first part of a two-part series to raise awareness about the critical issue of military sexual assault.  U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas will be lending her expertise on the issue and her highlighting her work fighting against sexual assault in Congress.  For more information and to register, click here.

BBA Boosts Legal Assistance for Our Troops and Veterans

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It’s been a little over six months since the BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service adopted the Military Legal Help Line . If you remember, this past fall we announced the expansion of our Veterans’ Initiative, by transferring the Help Line, launching our CLE series on Representing Military Members, Veterans & Their Families, and leveraging the efforts by our Active Duty, Family Members and Veterans Committee.

Here’s a glimpse of our impact so far:

  • Since September 1st, we have received calls from more than 250 military personnel, veterans and family members.
  • We successfully connected 65% more callers to lawyers and legal services than last year. Since developing a panel of qualified attorneys trained to assist with the unique legal issues facing this population, we have been able to help more clients.
  • All of the attorneys on these Military & Veterans panels accept reduced-fee cases and are generally willing to provide brief advice at no cost to the veteran or military member.
  • For more complex cases that members of our Military & Veterans panels are unable to help, we have been successful in finding other BBA members with specific expertise to provide assistance.

These successes come at the same time the state is expanding its outreach to veterans by launching the second Veterans Treatment Court, this one in Suffolk County. The court began holding sessions at the end of January and is staffed with specially trained judges, clinicians, probation officers and attorneys. The Veterans Treatment Court will hear certain criminal cases where a link has been established between trauma caused by military service and the defendant’s crime.

Can you help assist active duty military members with discharge cases? If you can or are an attorney who wants to help support the BBA’s Military Legal Help Line, contact Solana Goss at [email protected].

BBA Continues Veterans Work by Educating Attorneys on Representing Clients with Post-Traumatic Stress 

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The panelists discussed their personal experiences as a veteran or dealing with PTS.

On Wednesday afternoon, attorneys headed to the BBA’s Claflin Center for a program called “Representing Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress: What Everyday Attorneys Need to Know.” Just as the title suggests, the program educated attorneys about the challenges and misconceptions that arise when serving clients with PTS.

The panel for this program included attorneys who regularly counsel veterans, health care professionals, as well as individuals that have served in significant combat operations. The speakers included Kevin Casey (VA New England Healthcare), Tim McLaughlin (Holland & Knight), Jack Regan (WilmerHale), Ann Stewart (the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program), Travis Weiner, and moderator Bill Sinnott (the Corporation Counsel, City of Boston). These panelists shared gripping personal stories and experiences and provided perspective into many of stressful factors veterans face post-deployment.

Beyond the Billable checked in with Tim after attending this program to see what he hopes attendees learned. Here’s what he had to say:

“First, I hope the panel members were able to provide some general insight into the realities of military service, which is very different from its portrayal in the media.  Second, I hope we were able to provide some specific insights into what I would characterize as the normal and lifelong effects of military service and combat, which can manifest itself in many forms, including post-traumatic stress.  However, and this is important both from a veteran’s point of view and for those attorneys who may represent veterans in the future; speaking from first-hand experience, post-traumatic stress is not a disorder.  It is simply what comes next.  It would be a disorder if I was unaffected.  And finally, I hope we were able to share some of the many, many resources that are available to our veterans in and around Boston.”

This program is a part of the Boston Bar Association’s ongoing efforts to provide crucial legal assistance to military personnel, veterans, and their families.  Along with this program, the BBA’s Military Legal Help Line through the Lawyer Referral Service, and participation in Yellow Ribbon events, are just some of the ways the BBA commits to providing veteran’s and their families the access to legal assistance that they need and deserve.

If you are an attorney and would like to find out about what you can do to help veterans and their families, check out our Veteran’s Initiative webpage here.

Continuing to Support Those Who Served Our Country

Attendees attend a primer to Veterans Benefits and discuss some of the challenges facing veterans when they return from the service.

The panel discussed some of the challenges that veterans face veterans when they return from the service.

Last Thursday, the BBA hosted the final training in the CLE series on Representing Military Personnel and Families.  Even though this training series has concluded, the BBA’s commitment to helping veterans and military personnel with the legal challenges that they face is far from over.  With the adoption of the Military Legal Help Line and the BBA’s involvement in the Yellow Ribbon Project and the Massachusetts “Stand Down” event, the BBA’s support of this initiative will continue.

To encapsulate why it is important for the BBA and lawyers as a community to give back to veterans, military personnel and their families, check last week’s responses to  Voices of the Bar.

Michelle Wolf (Veterans’ Disability Benefits), a panelist on last week’s training on Veterans Benefits, stated,

“We all owe a duty to those who have volunteered to serve and protect our country, especially with the growing recognition of the toll military service takes on our soldiers, veterans and their families. Lawyers can truly make a difference in the lives of these individuals and families by assisting with legal issues that might otherwise distract soldiers currently serving.”

Keep an eye on the BBA calendar for additional training opportunities this winter and into the spring.  If you would like to know more about joining the Military and Veterans’ Panels for the Military Legal Help Line, please contact Solana Goss at [email protected].

BBA Military & Veterans Initiative Update

Last Thursday, the BBA hosted the third training of a 4-part CLE series on Representing Military Personnel and Veterans. This session covered topics in Trust & Estates, Employment, and Landlord/Tenant Law.

Last Thursday, the BBA hosted the third training of a 4-part CLE series on Representing Military Personnel and Veterans. This session covered topics in Trust & Estates, Employment, and Landlord/Tenant Law.

As you know, the BBA has been hard at work expanding our reach with our Military & Veterans Initiative, and we wanted to update you on our progress.

 Since the move of the Military Legal Helpline to the BBA Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) at the beginning of September, we have received more than 75 calls from military members, veterans, and their families. So far, we have nearly 30 attorneys accepting referrals through the military and veteran panels of the LRS.

Additionally, the BBA has hosted three CLE sessions on Representing Military Members and their Families. The most recent training last Thursday on Trusts & Estates, Employment, and Landlord/Tenant Law attracted lawyers from a variety of backgrounds.  Beyond the Billable reached out to panelist and former U.S. Army Officer Paul Lannon (Holland & Knight) to hear about the most recent training. Here’s what he had to say:

“Attorneys need specialized training because their clients – the soldiers– need specialized legal advice.  There are more and more laws, policies and practices that apply only to Uniformed Service members.  Special training is required to understand them and how they apply to soldiers leaving for or returning from duty.  Representing Uniformed Service members is worthwhile, highly rewarding, and much appreciated work for lawyers.”

So what’s up ahead?

Don’t miss the final installment of the four-part CLE series coming up on November 21st . This final training will be a primer on Veterans’ Benefits.  For more information or to register, please visit the event page. Keep an eye on the BBA calendar for additional training opportunities. We are always looking for ways to better serve those who serve our country.

 If you would like to know more about joining the Military and Veterans’ Panels for the BBA LRS, please contact Solana Goss at [email protected].

BBA Spotlights Four Pro Bono Superstars

During Pro Bono Month, the BBA trained over 200 attorneys to take pro bono cases, including training over 50 attorneys to volunteer for the Lawyer for the Day program and the Boston Housing Program.

During Pro Bono Month, the BBA trained over 200 attorneys to take pro bono cases, including training over 50 attorneys to volunteer for the Lawyer for the Day program and the Boston Housing program.

Though Pro Bono Month has officially ended, Beyond the Billable encourages its readers to take advantage of the BBA’s public service and pro bono initiatives year-round. If you needed any extra motivation, take a look at the four pro bono spotlights below, each of which highlights the commitment and participation of dedicated lawyers dedicated to pro bono work.

Thomas Beauvais: Lawyer for a Day Has A Lifetime Impact
Meg McKenzie Feist: Helping to Ease Burdens Through Bankruptcy
Donald Lassman: Financial Education for Service Members as a Means of Prevention
Katy Ward: Ensuring Access to Justice in Boston’s Housing Court

For a full recap of Pro Bono Month, click here. Please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at [email protected] for more information on how to get involved throughout the year.

Getting Prepared: Lawyers Trained to Aid Military Personnel in Bankruptcy Cases

Last Thursday, the BBA hosted the second training if a 4-part CLE series on Representing Military Personnel and Veterans.

Last Thursday, the BBA hosted the second training of a 4-part CLE series on Representing Military Personnel and Veterans.

As most of our readers know, the BBA recently announced its Lawyer Referral Service will house the Military Legal Help Line, which connects veterans, military personnel, and their families with lawyers and other legal resources appropriate to their needs by offering reduced fee and pro bono legal assistance.

As part of the process to build up referral resources for the Help Line, the BBA recently launched a 4 part CLE series on Representing Military Personnel and Veterans. Last month you heard from us about Part One of the Series, the training on Family Law and Domestic Relations. Part Two, tackling Bankruptcy & Consumer Finance issues, also offered guidance on representing a unique population, and shed light on some of the psychological aspects that lawyers need to think about when dealing with service members.

In the words of the program chair, Donald Lassman: “the training session provided those in attendance with excellent resource materials and expert guidance on legal issues that are unique to military service men and women in bankruptcy cases and consumer finance cases, including debt collection law suits, residential evictions, foreclosures and auto loan repossessions. Service members face unique challenges when placed on active duty that can cause financial stress and make it very difficult, if not impossible, to timely respond to creditor inquiries.”

The experienced panel included Donald R. Lassman (Law Office of Donald R. Lassman), Gail McAuliffe (Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services), Mark Rossi (Esher Rossi LLC), and Thomas Beauvais.

Stay tuned for more information about our Military Initiative. If you are interested in learning more about taking referrals through the Military Legal Help Line housed at the Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service, please contact Solana Goss, at [email protected].

Join us for the next training in the series – Representing Military Personnel & Veterans: Estate Planning, Employment Law & Landlord Tenant Law on November 7th.