Monday, December 1, 2014

Pension Poacher Prevention Act - Washington State

From the Washington State Attorney General, March 10, 2014
Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s Pension Poacher Prevention Act today passed the Legislature with strong bipartisan support. This measure addresses the growing problem of “pension poachers” who try to scam elderly veterans. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.
 Ferguson worked with Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, and Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, to secure approval for Senate Bill 6208. A coalition of veterans’ advocacy groups and organizations representing elderly Washingtonians, including AARP, supported the bill.
 “Our veterans protected us and we have a duty to protect them from scams,” said Ferguson. “The Attorney General’s Office is working hard to defend the legal rights of veterans, and this bill will improve safeguards and increase enforcement against scammers who rob veterans of their hard earned benefits.”
 “Pension poachers” represent a growing scam to separate elderly veterans from their assets. The scheme involves unscrupulous financial planners or insurance agents claiming to be veterans’ advocates. They offer “help” in submitting a claim for a specific federal U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs pension benefit called Aid and Attendance. The Federal Trade Commission and VA have each issued recent warnings about the scheme.
Poachers convince veterans to reposition their assets to try to qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit, which has specific and strict qualifications. The poachers then sell veterans often unneeded financial products or services to earn a commission or fee. Problems arise because these unscrupulous brokers often fail to deliver on their promises, do not provide full information about other veterans benefits, and do not reveal the potentially adverse consequences of the financial transactions such as loss of Medicaid eligibility.
 The Attorney General’s Pension Poacher Prevention Act will address these problems by prohibiting certain unfair and deceptive practices. The law will: Make it illegal to receive compensation for assisting with the preparation of a claim, except as allowed under the VA’s rules for accreditation; Prohibit individuals from guaranteeing a specific benefit amount; Make it illegal to misuse personal and financial information gathered for the purposes of assisting an individual with a veterans claim; and Give the Attorney General’s Office enforcement authority through the state’s consumer protection laws.
“Veterans and their families have sacrificed to protect us and as lawmakers we must do what we can to protect them,” said Sen. Andy Hill, who sponsored the legislation. “Too often scammers have defrauded veterans of their retirement savings and insurance options. By improving protections we can help secure their financial future.” “Vulnerable elderly veterans are being targeted by pension poachers offering empty promises of help,” said Rep. Kevin Parker, who sponsored a version of the bill in the House of Representatives. “Veterans are a vital part of our community and we need to work to protect them and the benefits they have earned.” "Veterans are sometimes specifically targeted for the benefits they have earned because of their service,” said Alfie Alvarado-Ramos, Director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs. “Veterans and families who need claims assistance can always get it for free by contacting our agency and network of accredited veteran service officers.”
 If you're worried about a possible pension poaching scams, you can:
  • Contact the AG at 1-888-551-4636 
  • File a complaint at: 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

November 10: Webcast + San Francisco - Advocating for Veterans: The Basics on VA Benefits, Discharge Upgrades and Veteran Cultural Competency

Advocating for Veterans: The Basics on VA Benefits, Discharge Upgrades and Veteran Cultural Competency
November 10, 2014 9:00 AM Pacific
Webcast - Register Now!
Also presented in-person in San Francisco.
There are over 21 million veterans in the U.S; many of them are not aware of the benefits to which they are entitled. Medical and financial assistance are available to men and women who have served in the military, but some who can qualify are not receiving the benefits that they need. Attorneys can assist veterans with the problems that preclude them from receiving benefits, such as:
  • Lack of proper paper trails to “service-connect” their injuries
  • Ineligibility for benefits for those given less than fully honorable discharges for behaviors that were related to post traumatic stress disorder or minor disciplinary infractions.
What you will learn Nearly 45% of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan seek compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for service related injuries. A stunning 30% suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Many of those who should receive benefits will be denied. All of them will wait months or years for the VA to issue decisions on their claims. Learn how to navigate the VA claims process and to become an effective advocate for veterans in need. This all day program will provide an overview of VA disability law and military discharge review law. You will gain an understanding of different types of military discharges, why they are important, and how you can help veterans with less than Honorable discharges. The three one-hour morning sessions provide the basics you need to represent veterans before the VA. The morning session fulfills the VA’s requirement for qualifying CLE within the first 12 months of your VA accreditation. The 1:45 session, Veteran Cultural Competency: Combat to Community will help veterans’ advocates to understand the challenges that veterans face in their transition to a noncombat community, and provide tips on interviewing and providing legal services to veterans with disabilities. The 2:45 to 5:00 sessions will provide attorneys with the tools that they need to assist veterans in upgrading their discharge status and removing stigmatizing information from their discharge documents. They will also cover the interactions between VA benefits and other public benefits, such as SSI and SSDI. Who should attend Attorneys seeking meaningful pro bono opportunities and any advocate who wants to help change the life of a veteran with a disability. Attorneys seeking to meet VA’s CLE requirements for new and continuing VA accreditation should also attend. Finally, attorneys who hope to expand their practice areas to include veterans’ cases where fees are available, should register for one or more of the sessions. Speakers:
  • Becca von Behren ~ Staff Attorney, Swords to Plowshares
  • Devin Bissman ~ Equal Justice Works Fellow, Swords to Plowshares
  • Michael Blecker ~ Executive Director, Swords to Plowshares
  • Starlyn Lara ~ Women Veteran Program Manager, Community Educator and Outreach Program Manager, Swords to Plowshares
  • Nicole M. Perez ~ Staff Attorney, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
  • Kate Richardson ~ Staff Attorney/Pro Bono Coordinator, Swords to Plowshares
  • Co-Chairs:
    • Theresa Mesa ~ Program Developer, Office of Legal Services, The State Bar of California
    • Teresa Panepinto ~ Legal Director, Swords to Plowshares
  • Program Attorney: Christina Thompson ~ Program Attorney, Practising Law Institute
Credits: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Virgin Islands, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Practising Law Institute
More Information And Registration

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

June 10: Apple Valley, MN - Serving #Veterans and Their Families #MCLE

The Dakota County Law Library and the 1st Judicial District Bar Association (FDBA)offer monthly free Continuing Legal Education sessions. You do not have to be a FDBA member to attend.
Serving Veterans and Their Families 
June 10, 2014 8-9 a.m.
Dakota County Law Library
Apple Valley, MN
Johanna Clyborne Esq.
Brekke, Clyborne & Ribich LLC (Shakopee)
Dakota County Law Library
1 CLE credit will be applied for.
More Information

Friday, May 23, 2014

June 12: Seattle - Everything Pro Bono and Public Service in and out of the WSBA #MCLE

Please join us for our next Washington State Bar Association - Legal Assistance to Military Personnel (LAMP) quarterly meeting scheduled for Immediately following the quarterly meeting we will have a one-hour CLE presentation. We are very pleased to share with you that we will have a special guest speaker: Ana Selvdige, WSBA Public Service Programs Manager, providing a presentation on “Everything Pro Bono and Public Service in and out of the WSBA.”
 This seminar will cover an overview of RPC 6.1, the various ways to comply with the rule, and the additional rules and organizations that support attorneys’ professional responsibility to assist in the provision of legal services to those who are low and moderate income.
Everything Pro Bono and Public Service in and out of the WSBA
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Meeting Starts: 11:30 A.M.
CLE Starts: Noon
Ben Bridge Corporate Office
2901 3rd Avenue, 2nd Floor
Seattle, WA 98121.
Ana Selvidge is the Public Service Programs Manager for the Washington State Bar Association. These programs include the WSBA Moderate Means Program, the Call to Duty Initiative, and new initiatives to engage more and new attorneys in providing public and pro bono services. Mrs. Selvidge began working in the legal field in 2007 at the King County Bar Association running the Legal Services for the Homeless Clinics and conducting Spanish intakes for all pro bono programs. Right before joining WSBA, she was the Volunteer Manager for the six Pro Bono Services Programs at KCBA. The registration link for Ana’s presentation.
WSBA Legal Assistance to Military Personnel Section
The presentation has been approved for one credit hour CLE credit.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

WSBA Call to Duty Program - Washington State

The WSBA Call to Duty Pledge asks you to commit in serving Washington veterans in 2014. As part of the pledge we will support you by providing resources both legal and non-legal to serve veterans, education and CLEs, and the chance to answer the various calls to duty in serving veterans.
By taking this pledge, you commit to serve veterans this year in one or more of the following ways:

  • Use my legal skills to advise a nonprofit organization that serves veterans
  • Mentor those who take pro bono cases that served a veteran
  • Teach at a CLE on veterans legal issues
  • Volunteer for one of the Call to Duty’s Days of Service or with the WA Vets Will Clinic
  • Take a low-fee veteran's case through the WSBA Moderate Means Program
  • Take a pro bono case from an organization who serves veterans
  • Become certified to take a VA benefits case.

Pledges are automatically added to our “Call to Duty Pledge” list serve. This list serve provides the following announcements and opportunities:
  • Monthly “Lunch and Learn” sessions – these webinars will highlight legal and non-legal resource helpful to serving veterans and their families 
  • Volunteer openings across the state
  • Access to free CLEs on issues veterans face
  • Pro bono case placement
  • Success stories from our members and our veterans
  • First to sign-up for the Days of Service.
Members who fulfill the pledge will receive a pin, be distinguished in NWLawyer magazine, and invited to a WSBA Call to Duty awards ceremony each January.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program Training - Sign up Now!

This program provides training free of charge to attorneys who agree to counsel and/or represent a veteran/VA claimant or family member before the Veterans Court. As well as receiving the day-long training, attorneys who participate are assigned a case that has been screened for merit and provided a screening memo outlining the issues in the case. Volunteers are also assigned a mentor (a practicing veterans’ law lawyer or practitioner) to give advice and share sample pleadings. Attorneys also receive the Veterans Benefits Manual (VBM) and other resource materials.
Attorneys who participate receive free training in exchange for a commitment to handle at least one appeal that is before the Veterans Court. Attorneys with little or no prior veterans’ law experience are generally able to capably represent an appellant before the Veterans Court provided they attend the training seminar and maintain contact with their mentor. Most cases can be completed in 50 to 60 hours; many cases may require fewer hours. A typical case lasts about 1 year from the time that the attorney enters the case. Some cases may be resolved more quickly and some may take longer.
These trainings tend to fill up quickly, so register asap.
Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program Training
Friday, May 2, 2014
9:00AM to 5:00PM
1101 K Street NW
Washington DC 20005
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
9:00AM to 5:00PM
300 North LaSalle, 11th Floor
Chicago IL 60654
The registration link will be posted February 18.
These trainings have always featured a great many free CLE credit recognized in most or all mandatory CLE states.
More Information and Registration

Friday, January 10, 2014

eBenefits: VA Disability Claims via the web!

The VA is encouraging veterans to applying for a VA disability claim online. is the fastest and quickest way to receive a decision. eBenefits, VA-Department of Defense’s joint portal, lets Veterans enter claim information electronically using a step-by-step, interview-style application, with pre-populated data fields and drop-down menus similar to popular tax preparation software. Learn more at

Sunday, January 5, 2014

January 14: Minneapolis & Webcast: Military Veterans and Service Members in the Minnesota Criminal Justice System

Are you working with a veteran or service member in the Minnesota criminal justice system? If you are what are the unique challenges they face? What tools are available for you in helping them? Hamline Law alum John Baker (2003), who is retired from the U.S. Marine Corps and is the past chair of the new Minnesota State Bar Association Military & Veterans Affairs Section, will discuss those unique challenges and give you the tools to help work with veterans and service members. This presentation will
  • Help you understand what combat stress issues are including post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury
  • Help you properly identify a military veteran or service member and understand military documents and lingo
  • Discuss the new Veteran Court and the Veterans Sentencing Mitigation Statute.
Military Veterans and Service Members in the Minnesota Criminal Justice System
January 14, 2014
11:30 AM to 12:30 PM
Moot Court Room (Room 100)
Hamline Law School
1536 Hewitt Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55104-1284
Also Webcast
Attorney John Baker, retired from the U.S. Marine Corps, is the past chair of the new Minnesota State Bar Association Military & Veterans Affairs Section
Hamline University School of Law
1 credit applied for