Courtesy of Clyde Robinson
In the last article, we mentioned the use of Veterans Treatment Court to curb a growing problem. The problem is the way we treat Veterans when they return from fighting after which some struggle with adapting to everyday civilian life. These heroes must be given special treatment, whether it is in the form of therapy or assigning highly trained professionals to their cases.
Some organizations and legal professionals have attempted to assist our military heroes in trouble with the law. Their tool is the Veterans Treatment Court. According to Justice for Vets
, "The Veterans Treatment Court model requires regular court appearances (a bi-weekly minimum in the early phases of the program), as well as mandatory attendance at treatment sessions and frequent and random testing for substance use (drug and/or alcohol)."Why is a Veterans Treatment Court better than any other criminal court? The experience of a Judge is important in every case. Legal professionals are increasingly focused on particular areas of law, which require specialized training whether in the form a Masters of Law or past work experience like that of a military JAG. The training continues in practice when lawyers attend specialized Continuing Legal Education (CLE). At this point, not every jurisdiction will have a past military lawyer sitting as a Judge, however. A Veterans Treatment Court is a positive step because a Judge can acquire knowledge through CLE courses and repetition of Veterans cases. As a result, the lawyers save time educating inexperienced Judges, and the Judges are more likely to know the resources available to treat Veterans.
A Court should not have a one size fits all Order for Veterans. Veterans might need therapy for PTSD symptoms, or they might benefit from a clinic that helps apply for benefits, or a family law professional might provide assistance with custody and support issues. Without these resources, our military heroes are likely feeling hopeless, leading some to resort to crime. So far, some Veterans Treatment Courts have government representatives with access to confidential records and benefits representatives available to assist courts and Veterans on the spot. Volunteer mentors are even available to help with navigating a day in Court and to support Veterans in the recovery process.
How can we ensure the existence of more Veterans Treatment Courts? Take the opportunity to contact your local officials. Write a letter or email to your local alderman or representative. Even the local Bar association and Chief Judge could be of assistance with organizing a docket to handle Veterans cases. They usually have the inclination to help Veterans, but it is up to all of us to work together to implement these effective Courts.Disclaimer: This article is intended only to provide general legal information. It does not create an attorney-client relationship. Consult a licensed attorney in your area if you are in need of legal advice.
One-third of adults ages 20 and older are considered obese, which is defined as having a body mass index greater than 30, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Obesity is an extremely important topic due to the related conditions, including diabetes and the physical strain of carrying too much weight. Clearly the American population struggles with obesity, and Veterans are not an exception. Not everyone is able to leave the military then stay active for the rest of their lives. As a result of crippling obesity related disability, many Veterans search for financial assistance from the government. They are challenged by the VA benefits process. In an attempt to ease the burden, we sought legal analysis of the various types of available disability programs. We found an informative article, Obesity Benefits: Comparing the Veteran’s Affairs Benefits and Other Disability Programs’ Benefits, in The John Marshall Law School Spring Bulletin, written by Ms. Elizabeth Lazicki. Ms. Lazicki analyzed the VA, ADA, SSA and USERRA to determine whether they provide a procedure to apply for benefits as a result of obesity. According to this article, a Veteran must establish "(1) status as a veteran; (2) the existence of a disability; (3) a connection between the veteran's service and the disability; (4) the degree of disability; and (5) the effective date of his disability." Her conclusion is the VA must clarify its definition of obesity to make it similar to the SSA and/or ADA. Based on her reasoning our Veterans will then have a better chance of avoiding time and money spent on appealing a benefits denial. The full article is found at http://www.jmls.edu/veterans/pdf/2012-spring-VLSC-newsletter.pdf.
There is a reason to look to the ADA for clarity. As a result of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, it is now easier for individuals with a range of impairments to establish they are individuals with disabilities. The ADA defines an "individual with a disability" as a person who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) has a record of such an impairment; or (3) is regarded, or treated by an employer, as having such an impairment, even if no substantial limitation exists (See
29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(j)(i)(1)(i)-(ii)). The EEOC claims that basic obesity, without any other underlying condition, sufficiently impacts the life activities of bending, walking, digestion, cell growth, etc., to qualify as a disability or perceived disability. EEOC v. Resources for Human Development
(E.D. LA.2010). (Source: http://www.diversityinc.com/diversity-and-inclusion/obesity-is-a-disability-says-eeoc) Furthermore, "service-connected disabilities, such as deafness, blindness, partially or completely missing limbs, mobility impairments requiring the use of a wheelchair, major depressive disorder, and PTSD, will easily be concluded to be disabilities under the ADA" (See 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(j)(3)(iii)).See our related article regarding the application procedure for benefits available at http://www.forloveofcountry.net/1/post/2012/08/reader-question-application-procedure-for-navy-benefits.html. Follow us on Twitter, and check back soon for our new articles.Disclaimer: This article is intended only to provide general legal information. It does not create an attorney-client relationship. Consult a licensed attorney in your area if you are in need of legal advice.
Courtesy of familymwr and WTC
In our last article we provided information about the changes taking effect due to sequestration. Here, we will share general tips containing specific guidance on ways to deal with sequestration changes. Read the following tips carefully, and find help with implementation from your network, including For Love of Country. Some of these tips will merely require your time while others will also require financial changes. Use these five tips and your ability to adapt to overcome sequestration.
1) Research: Do your homework on the legislation and the resulting rules and laws. We are not the only source of information. Seek relevant information from the VA and veterans groups. Sequestration will likely have an impact on current military heroes, veterans and families, however. As you acquire information your fears will subside, and you can continue to move forward with the next step.
2) Reevaluate Your Plan: The above research will guide your new life plan. Consider your current household budget, health insurance, paycheck withholding, and estate/will plan. As a start, visit our Links page to find less costly professional planning assistance from law schools and nonprofits. Check out new additions to our links page at http://wtc.army.mil/about_us/wtc.html (Warrior Transition Command) and http://www.armymwr.com. Ask questions to determine the right professional for your situation.
3) Get Organized: At the beginning of the year, we have the opportunity to start anew. If you are leaving the military, you must stay organized to accomplish a smooth transition. It does not require a professional to get organized. Buy a folder and add it to your safe or lock box to protect important documents. Establish a routine to backup important documents on a free cloud and/or zip drive. When employers and insurance carriers request your military information, you will have it ready to send in a timely fashion.
4) Be Persistent: Rome was not built in a day, and it was not built by one person. There will be obstacles to implementing life changes. Make the difficult decisions using others as sounding boards. Remember to seek advice and help from your network of family and friends. As you transition into civilian life, utilize the tremendous social network available on veterans websites and professional websites including www.linkedin.com.
5) Start Today: It's the beginning of 2013. The beginning of the year is always a time for resolutions. Doing a little each day and week will lead to a successful transition. In addition, feel free to ask general questions and share your new found knowledge in our NEW Community Forum.
Also see our financial resources article at http://www.forloveofcountry.net/1/post/2012/09/three-apps-for-managing-money.html.
(Courtesy of DVIDSHUB)
What do the terms "to sequester" or "sequestration" mean to the military? These terms generally mean to remove (property) temporarily, or to keep separate or apart (Sources: Dictionary.com and Law.com). Politicians and the media used these terms often during the past couple months because of the relevance to the fiscal cliff problem.
Let's dig a little deeper into why sequestration is relevant. According to the Congressional Report Service, "sequestration" is a process of automatic spending reductions ... first authorized by the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985. More recently, Congress included sequestration as an enforcement tool in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), and as a result, if Congress failed to act or appropriated more discretionary spending than allowed then sequestration would reduce discretionary spending. Because Congress did not act on January 15, 2012, by law, the first automatic sequestration cuts would take effect on January 2, 2013 (Source: FAS.org).
Did the recent actions of Congress prevent sequestration of all property and spending relevant to the military or its members? Not really. Details of the Budget resolution are still coming out since it was drafted on the eve of its passage, but we searched for recent examples of cuts to Department of Defense appropriations. We found reports that "Due to the cliff agreement, overall Pentagon cuts will be smaller – $42.7 billion in 2013. But after 2013, cuts would be the originally written $54.7 billion a year until fiscal 2021." (Source: http://blogs.marketwatch.com/election/2013/01/11/how-the-sequester-would-cut-spending)
The fiscal cliff problem clearly sparked the discussion of Department of Defense cuts, but will the affects of these cuts trickle down to be felt by current service-members and veterans? Initially, the reports are the deal spared programs including Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps and veterans’ benefits, however. All Americans will see an immediate increase in their taxes due to the end of some Bush era tax cuts. Tax increases are unlikely to be the only changes.
During the debate on the debt ceiling, some congressional members intend on revisiting the possibility of cutting entitlement programs, and possibly TRICARE and veterans benefits. Some cuts began already, specifically, TRICARE Prime is no longer available to veterans living over 40 miles from bases, and so these veterans must switch to TRICARE standard. Sequestration and any deal on the debt ceiling will likely force additional changes in military benefits. Stay tuned to www.forloveofcountry.net for a report on any future changes.
Disclaimer: This article is intended only to provide general legal information. It does not create an attorney-client relationship. Consult a licensed attorney in your area if you are in need of legal advice.
Courtesy of Apple and The McGraw-Hill
There is a new way to manage finances if you have access to a smartphone or tablet. It's the Military & Money App just released from The Better Business Bureau and The McGraw-Hill. A couple of other more tested apps are also available to assist with managing money.
According to the App Store, Military & Money "includes training videos, articles and interactive tools to help manage credit cards and credit scores, pay off debt, create an effective budget and establish a savings plan. Best of all the app is FREE. Even if you do not have access to the app store, Military & Money is available online at www.militaryandmoney.com
There are no ratings posted on the app store website, however. Several websites have provided positive feedback on the app, including http://www.forthoodsentinel.com/story.php?id=9764
. Let us know what you think about the app by leaving comments below.
Several other sources could be helpful to complement this new app. For instance, USAA offers a free app to manage finances and make insurance claims. In addition, Navy Federal Credit Union provides a free highly rated app to help with banking and finances. Check out our article for guidance regarding property tax appeals at http://www.forloveofcountry.net/1/post/2011/09/understand-the-tax-code-and-the-assessment-appeal-process.html
All of these sources are good ways to develop a plan and stay organized. It is also important to consult a legal, investment and tax professional during any change in life circumstances.Disclaimer: This article does not constitute an endorsement of any products. For Love of Country is not affiliated with and does not receive any compensation from the companies mentioned in this article.
We want to help military heroes take a second shot at maximizing their veterans benefits. Whether the initial claim was approved or denied, the appeal process is pretty straightforward.
Where is an appeal sent? The preferred place to send an appeal is the VA office located in your current area. Once your appeal is received, the local office will likely forward it to the Board of Veterans Appeals located in Washington D.C.
Are certain documents required and who can help complete an appeal? An appeal should be completed according to the Board's instructions. Some websites provide that an appeal only requires sending a Notice of Disagreement, however. Consider using the services of either an attorney or one of the clinics found under our Links tab. A trained Veterans law attorney or representative will likely skillfully apply your evidence to meet the standard used by the attorneys reviewing your appeal. One of the best places to go for guidance is the VA itself at www.va.gov. For your convenience, there is an example of this VA form at the bottom of this article. Read the instructions within the form carefully and double-check the VA website for an updated form before filling it out.
Case law is certainly available to guide your appeal. Find recent opinions of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims at http://www.uscourts.cavc.gov/orders_and_opinions/Opinions.cfm
. Several of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions are as follows:
Shinseki v. Sanders, 129 S. Ct. 1696, 556 U.S. ___ (2009) (held veterans benefits cases follow the ordinary rule that appellant's generally have the burden of proving that a procedural error was prejudicial).(Source: Veterans Law Library, available at http://www.veteranslawlibrary.com/index.html
Brown v. Gardner, 513 U.S. 115 (1994) (abrogated by statute) (held 38 U.S.C. § 1151 (1994) provides compensation for any veteran injured by VA medical care, regardless of whether VA was negligent).
Traynor v. Turnage, 485 U.S. 535 (1988) (held Congress may deny benefits based upon a veteran's alcoholism).
When is the deadline to appeal? Generally, the Statute of Limitations is the time period in which a claimant must make an appeal. To appeal a Veterans claim one must file it within one year of the original determination, which is subject to a couple of narrow exceptions. After the appeal is processed, the VA and/or Board might send you request(s) for more information, after which there is a separate deadline for you to respond.
For more assistance, read our article on organizations available to assist claimants available at http://www.forloveofcountry.net/1/post/2012/08/very-appealing-program.html
Good luck with your appeal! Disclaimer: This article is intended only to provide general legal information. It does not create an attorney-client relationship. Consult a licensed attorney in your area if you are in need of legal advice.
Courtesy of The Veterans Consortium
How would you like free legal assistance? It's available from The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program. This program was created to assist veterans with appeals in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Licensed attorneys are trained to assist veterans with this type of appellate work. According to its website, every appellant receives a thorough review of their case whether it is accepted or not. More information is available at http://www.vetsprobono.org/
In our next article we will provide a description of making your claim and an appeal.
Disclaimer: For Love of Country is not affiliated with any organization mentioned in this blog article. This article does not constitute an endorsement of any organization referenced in this article. We encourage those interested in donations to research charitable organizations by requesting information from the organization and using tools available on the internet.
Courtesy of U.S. Navy
Reader Questions: "Nice service. So if I want to try and get a disability from the Navy, what do I have to do?"
The application process for military related disability benefits is accessible online. We have attempted to include the most important websites and other methods of applying for benefits. It is important to follow all instructions provided on the Navy and VA forms. If you are in doubt then contact the VA.
The VONAPP (V
lication) website is an official U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) website that enables service members, veterans and their beneficiaries, and other designated individuals to apply for benefits using the Internet. This website contains guidance for the different situations. Most of the necessary government forms can be requested by calling or writing to the VA. If you are tech savvy, the online application is available at https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits-portal/ebenefits.portal?_nfpb=true&_portlet.async=false&_pageLabel=ebenefits_myeb_vonapp1
After the VA receives your claim it will contact you. Expect a letter in the mail requesting certain documents. In addition, the VA might request a physical examination. Based upon this evidence, the Rating Veterans Service Representative will determine if you qualify and the amount of disability to be awarded. Their office will send a letter notifying you of the decision. Both the rate of benefits and a denial is appealable.
In addition to the Navy disability benefits, veterans should attempt to determine their eligibility for Social Security disability benefits. The government has established an FAQ website at http://www.ssa.gov/woundedwarriors/
. According to the SSA website, "Active duty status and receipt of military pay does not, in itself, necessarily prevent payment of Social Security disability benefits." If you are still in doubt, attempt to contact one of the legal clinics found on our Links tab.
Thank you for your service. Please keep the questions coming!
Disclaimer: This article is intended only to provide general legal information. It does not create an attorney-client relationship. Consult a licensed attorney in your area if you are in need of legal advice.
Courtesy of Lance Cpl. Daniel Wetzel
Not all military medal recipients are easily verifiable like Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer. On Sept. 15, 2011 President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Meyer in recognition of his brave-selfless actions, seen in the photo at right.
Due to the problem of individuals falsely claiming military honors, the U.S. military intends to offer a database of its award and medal recipients. The database might contain the names of recipients of the Medal of Honor, Silver Star and Bronze Star. A fire occurred in 1973 and so some recipients are unlikely to be included in the database. It appears the database will be available for public access through the Department of Defense.
There are recent high profile examples of individuals falsely claiming military honors. In the case of United States v. Alvarez
, Alvarez plead guilty to falsely claiming he received the Medal of Honor, but he appealed claiming the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional. The Ninth Circuit found the Stolen Valor Act invalid under the First Amendment, and the U.S. Supreme Court recently affirmed the Ninth Circuit's decision. The Court's Alvarez
opinion is attached to our related article about the Stolen Valor Act, available at http://www.forloveofcountry.net/1/post/2012/07/stolen-valor-act-struck-down-by-us-supreme-court.html
The military database is likely a response to the Supreme Court's decision in Alvarez. In addition to the database, some U.S. congress members intend to introduce legislation to criminalize lying about military awards. We intend to keep you updated on the progress of their legislation.
Disclaimer: This article is intended only to provide general legal information. It does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Consult a licensed attorney in your area if you are in need of specific legal advice.
On June 28, 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Stolen Valor Act, which prohibits a person from falsely claiming they received a military honor. In the case of United States v. Alvarez
, Alvarez plead guilty to falsely claiming he received the Medal of Honor, but he appealed claiming the Stolen Valor Act (18 U. S. C. §§704 (b), (c)) is unconstitutional.
According to the Court's majority opinion prepared by Justice Anthony Kennedy: “The remedy for speech that is false is speech that is true. This is the ordinary course in a free society.” However, in the dissenting opinion Justice Samuel Alito said: “Legitimate award recipients and their families have expressed the harm they endure when an imposter takes credit for heroic actions that he never performed. One Medal of Honor recipient described the feeling as a ‘slap in the face of veterans who have paid the price and earned their medals.’” This Supreme Court opinion contrasts with the Court's opinions during the past couple of sessions in which the Court extended protections to service members and veterans.
For more information, read about the proposed U.S. Military awards and medals database available at http://www.forloveofcountry.net/1/post/2012/07/us-military-intends-to-protect-medal-recipients.html
, and "Cat's Paw" and Staub v. Proctor Hospital
available at http://www.forloveofcountry.net/1/post/2011/12/cats-paw-in-staub-v-proctor-hospital.htm
l.Disclaimer: This article is intended only to provide general legal information. It does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Consult a licensed attorney in your area if you are in need of specific legal advice.
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