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 Tagged: Veterans
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.
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].
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.
“They made a choice – they said, ‘I know that this might happen to me.’ What we really hope is that you will help us to help these people when they get home.”
So said Anna Schleelein Richardson of veterans and the sacrifice they make by enlisting in the armed services, knowing the risk of physical injury or emotional distress. At a brown bag program last week aimed at training attorneys on providing legal assistance to veterans in family law cases, Richardson reminded attendees that this is the longest period of time in history that the U.S. has been at war.
Some of the clients she has seen at Veterans Legal Services never expected to go to war at all when they signed up to join the Coast Guard, or they planned to commit to just one tour in Iraq when they ended up serving two or three. Many of these soldiers come back with issues that lead to a need for legal assistance in family law cases, she said.
Later on in the week, veterans and lawyers who have represented veterans came to discuss their experience firsthand. The BBA hosted its second Meet and Greet Luncheon for veterans in the legal community and their families.
Several branches of the military were represented, and attendees had the chance to talk about their shared experiences. Attorneys who frequently represent veterans were also in attendance.
If you are interested in representing veterans, we are holding a Pro Bono training on discharge upgrades on May 18.
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.
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:
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.