Friday, September 30, 2011

Nov 4/San Francisco, CA - #Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program Training

Veterans denied benefits by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

Thousands of veterans or their survivors have filed appeals in the Court. Most cases involve claims for VA disability or death benefits. Unfortunately, for many veterans the promise of effective judicial review has proved elusive. A majority of those who appeal to the Court do not have a representative at the time they file their appeal.

Unrepresented veterans are at a significant disadvantage in litigating against the VA General Counsel’s Office, which represents VA in all Court proceedings. Mentally and physically disabled veterans may be especially disadvantaged.

Training Date: November 4, 2011
Sponsor: Arnold & Porter LLP and the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program
Location: One Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, CA
Time: 9:00AM to 5:00PM
Registration: Please check back for application form at


Monday, September 26, 2011

GI Bill and Predatory Schools (#veterans law)

What kind of predator would seek out veterans and their GI Bill benefits?
Tom Tarantino of IAVA reports:
"I recently attended a briefing held by Senators Tom Harkin and Tom Carper from the Senate Health Education and Labor (HELP) Committee on a potentially serious threat to student veterans and their families. Since implementation of the New GI Bill, for-profit colleges have received a disproportionate amount of GI Bill dollars. Of the ten educational institutions collecting the most V.A. benefits, eight are for-profit schools. Together, those eight schools collected $1 billion of the over $5 billion used in 2010 to educate veterans. Many of them have not returned the educational value and employment services that were promised to veterans when they enrolled.
This is a serious issue that IAVA has been tracking for over a year. Now we have the data and information to back up what we’ve been hearing from veterans who have been victimized. In anop-ed in the New York Times, Holly Petraeus said that predatory schools see veterans and service members as dollar signs in uniform.
It’s important to note that there are many for-profit schools that provide education and services to veterans who use distance learning or seek vocational degrees that are not available elsewhere. These schools are helping veterans and their families continue their educations and find meaningful employment. However, several reports have found that other for-profit schools will do anything to tap this pool of students. As a result, veterans, service members, and their families are not getting the educational training they have earned and they lose out on their benefits and credits. Many come out with degrees that do not help them achieve their professional goals. IAVA is fighting for ways to protect veterans’ educational options while ensuring that the bad actors in the for-profit educational industry are no longer able to take advantage of veterans and their families.
We currently do not know how many veterans have suffered at the hands of predatory schools. If you’ve had bad experiences with a for-profit college, email us at ...."
More at
Similar comments have come from the Veterans of Foreign Wars. This looks like an issue to be careful about, whether you're a veteran or advising a

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gmail Supports US Service Members abroad: calling home for free

This may be helpful for contacting clients serving abroad, or helping them stay in touch with their families. According to
Calling phones in the United States is now completely free for all uniformed military personnel with a valid United States Military (.mil) address. This means that troops stationed around the world can now call the United States at no cost, right from Gmail

To start making free calls, follow these 2 steps:

Step 1: Add your .mil address to your Google Account:
  1. Sign in on the Google Accounts homepage
  2. Click Edit next to 'Email addresses.'
  3. Add your .mil email in the 'Add an additional email address' field.
  4. Click Save. You will receive an email at your .mil address.
  5. Open the verification email and click the verification link.
Step 2: Click the 'Call phone' link in your chat roster and use the dialpad to make calls. You may be prompted to install the Voice & Video Chat plugin.
Similarly to free calling within the U.S., free calling to the U.S. for service members will be available for at least the rest of 2011. Calling to other destinations starts at as little as $.02/minute, and calling from Gmail is not available in all locations.
I hope someone will test this out, and report back on how it works:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Post-Incarceration Access to VA Health Care Benefits Extended to Eligible #Veterans

Veterans recently released from incarceration, or soon to be released, should be made aware of the following from the VA:
"In an effort to provide eligible Veterans access to VA health care benefits while transitioning from incarceration, VA has revised its policy to afford eligible Veterans access to VA healthcare benefits and services while in halfway houses and other temporary, post-incarceration housing. VA recognizes that the lack of access to healthcare, particularly mental healthcare, may contribute to newly released Veteran inmates becoming homeless or ultimately returning to prison. Long established, previous VA policy inhibited VA from providing access healthcare benefits and services to Veterans for whom another federal, state or local government, to include Veterans incarcerated in jails and prisons, has an obligation to provide health care. Revised VA policy enables VA to provide access to healthcare benefits and services to Veterans who reside in halfway houses and other temporary, post-incarceration housing.

If you are a Veteran previously enrolled in the VA healthcare system, please contact VA toll free at 1-877-222-VETS (8387) for more information.  If you are a recently released inmate who meets the basic eligibility requirements of a Veteran; however, you never applied for VA healthcare benefits,  please consider applying for enrollment in the VA healthcare system. You may apply online by visiting VA website at In addition, you may apply by calling VA toll free at 1-877-222-VETS (8387), Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., Eastern Time, or if convenient, you may apply in person by visiting your local VA medical facility."
Medical care can be a serious issue for clients who are re-integrating into the community. It is to everyone's advantage that those who are eligible for this program apply as soon as possible. Learn More at

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Nov 1+4/Kentucky - Free Legal Clinics for #Veterans

Legal Aid Society
Louisville, LK
The Legal Aid Society of Louisville, Kentucky will hold free legal clinics for veterans in several locations around the state.
The first two clinics are in Louisville and Elizabethtown:
  • Louisville: Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 2 p.m., Legal Aid Society offices, 416 West Muhammad Ali Blvd., Third Floor.
  • Elizabethtown:  Friday, Nov. 4, 2 p.m., American Legion Hall, 1251 Ring Road.

Please pre-register by calling (502) 584-1254, Ext. 3006
See flyer here. [PDF]

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kentucky Legal Assistance to Military Personnel (LAMP)

The legal community in Kentucky provides Legal Assistance to Military Personnel in a variety of ways.

For the Warrior Community

Active duty service members may wish to go first to Armed Forces Legal Assistance's online database to "locate active duty legal activities offering general legal services within the continental United States". Here what is currently  listed for the state of Kentucky:

Fort Knox
3d Ave. Building 1310
Radcliff, KY 40121
Phone: 502-624-2771

Fort Campbell
Fort Campbell Legal Office
127 Forrest Road
Fort Campbell, KY 42223
Phone: 270-798-0965 635-0965

General-Purpose Resources

Servicemembers, veterans and their families are of course eligible to use the same resources as anyone else.

Private Practice Attorneys

Typically, a lawyer in private practice will listen to your situation for 15 or 20 minutes, then give you an idea about how to proceed, in general terms, without charging you. If the matter is something the lawyer can help you with, but must charge for, sometimes you can work out a military-family discount, especially if you are easy to work with. The Findlaw website has a city-by-city list of lawyers in Kentucky who are interested in representing active-duty military personnel, military reservists, and veterans .

For Lawyers

I have not found any Legal Assistance to Military Personnel (LAMP) section or committee with the Kentucky bar. This may be an opportunity for a veteran/lawyer looking to make a difference! Anyone with more information on these or other programs are invited to contact me; the most convenient way is to add in a comment below. The purpose is service!

See also

Gulf War Disability Filing Deadline Approaching!

pyridostigmine, a nerve agent antidote
and one of the implicated toxins
If you are Gulf War veteran and have a condition that you think may have arisen from that service (such as Gulf War Ill­ness, Fr­ibromyal­gia or Chronic fatigue syn­drome), you should get in gear and contact your Veteran Service Officer so you can file with the VA before the end of this year. Filing later than that may make it harder to prove your case since it may be argued that the symptoms didn't arrive.
For VA benefit purposes, Gulf War Veterans are defined as those who served on active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations any time during the first Gulf War starting August 2, 1990 through the Iraq War and subsequent reduced operations in Iraq. Military operations include Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and New Dawn.
Gulf War Veterans have experienced illnesses that led VA and others to research whether exposures during the Gulf War caused the symptoms. VA presumes certain medically unexplained symptoms and illnesses are related to Gulf War service. Eligible Veterans may receive VA disability compensation and health care benefits. Surviving spouses, dependent children, and dependent parents of Gulf War Veterans who died as the result of illnesses related to Gulf War service may be eligible for survivors' benefits.
VA offers eligible Veterans a free Gulf War Registry health exam for possible long-term health problems related to Gulf War service.
All this takes time, and the end of the year is coming, there may be thousands of people filing soon; do you want to be in the front of the line or in the back?

For details, see "New Gulf War Disability Filing Deadline?" by Ben Krause of
Reportedly, the VA is working to extend the deadline to December 31, 2018, and you may wish to contact your Congresscritter about that. And if you have any doubts, get your paperwork in now; there is no good reason to delay.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

South Carolina Seeks #Volunteer Lawyers for Legal Assistance to Military Personnel Update

Since my first post on the South Carolina Bar Association's Legal Assistance to Military Personnel efforts, that organization seems to have upgraded and improved the resources they make available to servicemembers and families, and is recruiting lawyers to serve them. From its website:
"Military service often affects a service member’s ability to obtain legal counsel or representation for many legal issues. One of the biggest hindrances for these service members is the expense of private legal representation. After September 11, 2001, the ABA urged state bar organizations to take steps to provide reduced fee or free legal services to military personnel who were facing deployment/activation. The South Carolina Bar responded by creating Legal Assistance for Military Personnel (LAMP) in 2001 as an effort to meet this need by pairing qualifying military personnel with volunteer lawyers. Nine years later, the need for legal services in the military community remains high. The South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Program is now reviving the program and recruiting a fresh force of volunteer attorneys.

The South Carolina Bar’s program seeks to provide free or reduced fee legal services to active military personnel who are stationed in South Carolina or whose case is related to South Carolina in some way. Military service frequently places service members in unique and difficult legal situations. While active duty military personnel can obtain certain legal services for free from military lawyers, due to the limited resources of these departments many legal needs of service members are unmet. For example: a service member may need help getting out of a residential lease when he is called up for active duty; a service member may need to be present at a court hearing but is instead across the country or in another part of the world; a service member could need information about how a civil or criminal judgment against him could affect his military service, etc.

LAMP seeks to recruit volunteer attorneys who practice in several different areas of law including: Wills/Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Landlord/Tenant, Family, Employment, Probate, Guardianship/Adoption, Military, and Consumer. LAMP is an important and effective way for South Carolina’s legal community to serve those who willingly sacrifice so much for our country.
If you are a servicemember in or connected to South Carolina seeking legal aid, please fill out the handy form you'll find at You can also find some resources at first post on SCBA's LAMP program
If you are an attorney interested in helping these people out, contact  Kelly Teague at (803)799-6653, ext. 118 or

See also

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ohio Attorney General's Patriot Program: Legal Services for Servicemembers and Families!

Volunteers from the Ohio Attorney General's Office provide some free legal services for military personnel and their families for particular issues, including:
  • Exercising your rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
  • Drafting wills, including living wills.
  • Delegating power of attorney, including for health care decisions.
Reserve & National Guard personnel and their dependents are eligible for this program.  
For help, call (800) 282-0515.
For more information on this and other ways that the Ohio State Attorney General may be helpful to servicemembers, veterans and their families, see

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Northwest Justice Project #Veterans Project

The Northwest Justice Project’s Veterans Project provides civil legal assistance and referrals to low income and homeless veterans in a variety of civil legal areas (including child support, consumer law, driver’s license suspensions, and vacating criminal records).

Friday, September 16, 2011

Department of Defense #Adoption Reimbursement

One of the lesser-known benefits of military service is reimbursement of some expenses of adoption. This may include Guard members currently on active status! According to the "DoD Adoption Reimbursement" page:
"Are you planning to or in the process of adopting a child? Federal law authorizes reimbursement for certain expenses associated with adoption to a maximum of $2000 per child and not to exceed $5000 per calendar year.

Of course, there are requirements and limitations you must be aware of. For instance, the adoption must be arranged by qualified adoption agencies or a source authorized under state or local law. Private and stepchild adoptions must be finalized in a U.S. court.

In order to qualify for the reimbursement, service members must be serving on continuous active duty for at least 180 days and the adoption must be finalized while on active duty. In addition, the claim must be submitted while on active duty and within 1 year of the date that the adoption was finalized.

Complete policy and procedures can be found in DoD Instruction 1341.9 and Volume 7A, Appendix A for the DoD Financial Management Regulation. Here you can also find what expenses can be reimbursed as well as those that are excluded.

More information is also available for…

Air Force Family Support Centers; Marine Corps family support, finance, personnel, legal assistance offices; and military chaplains can be good places to start gathering information for your application.

Your personnel office will assist you complete your application, ensure your submission is complete and send the package to DFAS Cleveland for adjudication.

Applications must be submitted to:
Defense Finance and Accounting Service
Cleveland Center - Code JFLAGA
1240 East Ninth Street
Cleveland, OH 44199-2055
For questions concerning a claim, an e-mail can be sent to the DFAS Adoption Reimbursement mailbox at

NOTE: It takes approximately 4-6 weeks for a determination to be made. For claims that are approved, payment will be issued via direct deposit. If a claim is denied or additional information is necessary, the service member will be notified in writing."
Legal service workers assisting military families should keep this potential benefit in their toolbox.  
Find More Information:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

#OSEHRA: VA Launches Open Source Custodian for Health Records (#opensource)

The VA recently announced an initiative with big implications for  health care records, at

August 30, 2011
VA Launches Open Source Custodian
Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent Begins Operations
"WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced it has
completed an important milestone on its joint path with the Department of Defense (DoD) to
create a single electronic health record system for servicemembers and Veterans. OSEHRA,
the Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent, has begun operations and will serve as
the central governing body of a new open source Electronic Health Record (EHR)
"We developed our open source strategy to engage the public and private sectors in the
rapid advancement of our EHR software, which is central to the care we deliver to Veterans
and servicemembers and to our joint EHR collaboration with the Department of Defense,”
said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “With the launch of OSEHRA, we
begin the implementation of our strategy and we look forward to the creation of a vibrant
open source EHR community.”
As part of the initiation of OSEHRA operations, VA has contributed its current EHR,
known as VistA (Veterans Integrated System Technology Architecture), to seed the effort.
OSEHRA will oversee the community of EHR users, developers, and service providers that
will deploy, use, and enhance the EHR software.
Individuals and organizations interested in participating in OSEHRA
( are invited to join through the community website. Established as an
independent non-profit corporation during its initial phase of operation, OSEHRA is putting
in place the framework and the tools that will enable the public sector, private industry, and
academia to collaborate to advance EHR technology.
Draft documents describing key framework components, such as the design of its coderepository and the definition of its software quality certification process, are available on the
OSEHRA community website. Community feedback is welcome as the OSEHRA team
finalizes these designs in preparation for launch of full technical operations this fall.
The design of OSEHRA is being led by The Informatics Application Group (tiag)
under a contract awarded by VA in June 2011.
Moving to an open source model invites innovation from the public and private
sectors. It is an important element of VA’s strategy to ensure that VA clinicians have the
best tools possible, and that Veterans receive the best health care possible.

OSEHRA (Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent) governs an open, collaborative
community of users, developers, and researchers engaged in advancing electronic health
record technology. For more information, visit
Please note that collaboration is being requested from parties with interests and/or expertise. If you have an interest in efficient yet secure healthcare records, register at the site and make your contribution!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Combat-Related Special Compensation website

Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) provides tax-free monthly payments to eligible retired veterans with combat-related injuries. With CRSC you can receive an amount equal to or less than your length of service retirement pay and your VA disability compensation, if the injury is combat-related.
Veterans, caregivers and their attorneys can learn more at the Combat-Related Special Compensation website.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

National Resource Directory for #Veterans, Servicemembers, Families & Caregivers

The National Resource Directory (NRD) provides access to services and resources at the national, state and local levels that support recovery, rehabilitation and community reintegration of servicemembers and veterans. It's a valuable resource for servicemembers, veterans, their families/caregivers, and service providers.
Information included:
  • Benefits & Compensation
  • Education & Training
  • Employment
  • Family & Caregiver Support
  • Health
  • Homeless Assistance
  • Housing
  • Transportation & Travel
  • Volunteer Opportunities
  • And More!
Are you looking for help? You can find it here, via menus or a search field.
Do you provide help, or know of an organization that does? Check to see if that resource is listed and, if not, suggest the directory add it!

Monday, September 12, 2011

VA Issues Agent Orange Ships List


If you served on the waters of Vietnam between January 1962 and May 1975, you might get Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation for 14 medical conditions that are now presumed to have something to do with exposure to Agent Orange. However you MUST apply for the compensation; as always, if you do nothing, then nothing will happen.

What's the Problem?

For you younger kids, Agent Orange was a poison we sprayed on Vietnam to make it harder for the enemy to hide in the jungle. The poison got on our guys too and causes all sorts of problems, like cancer years later. The surviving veterans deserve care for their wounds because the damage was inflicted while they were serving out country, but some of the wounded were on watercraft and there used to be a rule saying you weren't "in" Vietnam if you hadn't set foot on land. That rule got fixed but a lot of people don't know they may now be eligible for treatment.
The VA is now playing catch-up; this is from their website:

"Agent Orange: U.S. Navy and Coast Guard Ships in Vietnam

Soldiers are in a boat near a jungle area that could have been sprayed with Agent Orange
VA has released a list of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships associated with military service in Vietnam and possible exposure to Agent Orange based on military records.
This evolving list will help Veterans who served aboard ships, including “Blue Water Veterans,” find out if they may qualify for presumption of herbicide exposure.
Veterans must meet VA's criteria for service in Vietnam, which includes aboard boats on the inland waterways or brief visits ashore, to be presumed to have been exposed to herbicides.
Veterans who qualify for presumption of herbicide exposure are not required to show they were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides when seeking VA compensation for diseases related to Agent Orange exposure.

Find Your Ship

Ships or boats that were part of the Mobile Riverine Force, Inshore Fire Support (ISF) Division 93 or had one of the following designations operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam. Veterans whose military records confirm they were aboard these ships qualify for presumption of herbicide exposure.
During your Vietnam tour, did your ship or boat have one of the following designations?
  • LCM (Landing Craft, Mechanized)
  • LCU (Landing Craft, Utility)
  • LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel)
  • LST (Landing Ship, Tank)
  • PBR (Patrol Boat, River)
  • PCF (Patrol Craft, Fast or Swift Boat)
  • PG (Patrol Gunboat)
  • WAK (Cargo Vessel)
  • WHEC (High Endurance Cutter)
  • WLB (Buoy Tender)
  • WPB (Patrol Boat)
  • YFU (Harbor Utility Craft)

Alphabetized Ship List

If your vessel is not included in the Mobile Riverine Force, ISF Division 93 or above designations, check VA's Alphabetized Ship List.

Need Help Determining Qualifying Service?

VA will help determine qualifying service in Vietnam when you file a claim for compensation benefits. To contact VA:
If your vessel is not included in the Mobile Riverine Force, ISF Division 93 or listed designations (see "Find Your Ship"), check the alphabetized list of ships below.To search for your ship, look under the first letter of the formal ship name. For example, if your ship's name is Dennis J. Buckley, look under the letter "D" for Dennis.
Ships will be regularly added to the list based on information confirmed in official records of ship operations. Ship not on the list and you think it should be?
Questions about your eligibility for compensation benefits? Contact your nearest VA benefits office."
Learn more at
And thanks for the head's up from

Sunday, September 11, 2011

How To Hire An Attorney - Help from Jim Strickland of #VA Watchdog

On the new VA Watchdog, Jim Strickland offers some advice on hiring a lawyer:
Until 2007 veterans weren't allowed to have attorney representation for VA actions in most cases. Only appeals in higher courts were open to lawyers who would represent vets.
When a veteran filed a claim for a deserved benefit with the VA, he or she had two choices. They could use a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) or they could go it alone. I refer to that as the Do It Yourself (DIY) way of handling your claim.
The restriction has loose origins about the time of the Civil War. As the war came to an end and many veterans were injured, the government started development of what would eventually become today's Department of Veterans Affairs. The profession of law wasn't as well defined, controlled or restricted as it is today and any number of charlatans were advertising their services as lawyers.
Veterans were easy targets for these less than honest types and the government sought to protect veterans by making it illegal to charge veterans for any services that had to do with claims against the government. Professional lawyers can't afford to give away their services all the time so they were more or less forced to deny veterans representation.
n 2007 veterans gained the right to hire attorneys for appeals at all levels. At first there were very few lawyers practicing veterans law but over time the field grew and practitioners were trained and professional organizations were formed and standards were set. Today there are many excellent attorneys available who can assist you.

The trick, of course, is to find the right lawyer for you. I'll help you along with that task...."

Now, I'm not going to rip off Mr. Strickland by grabbing his whole article. If you're thinking of filing a VA claim, or hiring a lawyer for any purpose, go read the whole article here:
How To Hire An Attorney by Jim Strickland of VA Watchdog

Then come back and tell me what do you think: did it make sense to you? are you going to take his advice?