High Quality Advocacy for Individuals with a Military Connection. 2011 NLADA Conference Washington DC. Panelists. Pete Duffy, NGAUS; Rachel Natelson, SWAN Bill Russo, VA Captain Sam Wright, ROA Facilitator Nan Heald, PTLA. What we will cover.
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High Quality Advocacy for Individuals with a Military Connection
2011 NLADA Conference
Either “Veteran” (either client or household member has served in the military, including the Reserves or National Guard) or “Non-Veteran “(neither client nor household member has served in the military, including the Reserves or National Guard)
Overview of VA Benefits & Advocacy
Presentation to the National Legal Aid & Defender Association
William F. Russo
Office of the General Counsel
December 9, 2011
Dates of service
Awards & Medals
Last duty assignment and rank
Military job specialty
Separation information (type of separation, character of service, authority and reason for separation, separation and reenlistment eligibility codes)
DoD determination on character of service can be appealed.
Military service must be “under conditions other than dishonorable” to qualify for VA benefits & services.
VA makes its own determination.
If more than one period of service, veteran can qualify based on honorable period(s) even if last discharge was dishonorable.
Only wounded veterans are eligible for VA health care. Myth.
There are 8 categories of veterans who are eligible for VA health care, based on income as well as disability. VA offers medical centers, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, and domiciliaries, as well as Vet Centers for outpatient mental health counseling. See www.va.gov. All those currently being discharged from the military following deployment can get at least 5 years of VA health care.
Veterans can get compensation for disability resulting from virtually any injury or disease that began during military service, even hemorrhoids or hypertension. Truth.
As long as the disability is not the result of "willful misconduct," drug or alcohol abuse, or smoking, a veteran will be service connected, making them eligible for compensation.
Veterans are prohibited from paying for attorney representation in their VA claims. Myth.
Under a 2006 statutory change, veterans may hire and pay an attorney after they have been denied by the VA Regional Office and have initiated an appeal to Board of Veterans' Appeals. Veterans may retain a pro bono attorney at any time during the claims process.
VA's regulations were written decades ago and are outdated, poorly organized, and difficult to understand. Truth.
VA's regulations on service-connected compensation, nonservice-connected pension, and burial benefits (38 CFR part 3) are outdated, poorly organized, and difficult to understand. Fortunately, VA is reorganizing and rewriting them in plainer language. The Proposed Rule will be published early 2012.
Largest health care system in U.S.:
$48 bn Annually for Disability Benefits:
Avoids the unnecessary criminalization of mental illness and extended incarceration
Access to VHA mental health and substance abuse services when clinically indicated, and other VA services and benefits as appropriate.
Each VAMC & OGC office has VJO staff.
NGAUS Legal Update
Peter J. Duffy
Deputy Legislative Director
The National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) was created in 1878 for the purpose of providing united National Guard representation before Congress.
Today, just as then, NGAUS seeks toobtain better equipment, standardized training and a more combat-ready force by petitioning Congress for resources.
Guard Armory Locations
Army National Guard
Air National Guard
In more than 3,000 Communities
State Active Duty (SAD)- ordered into service by the governor for a state domestic matter and paid state statutory rate
Title 32- serving in inactive duty training (IDT) under Title 32 USC; and paid with federally appropriated funds at drill pay rate
Title 32 on active duty (AD) orders for training or other domestic duty; and paid with federal dollars the same as an active duty military member with some minor differences in allowances
Title 10 active duty (AD)when ordered to active duty service in support of a contingency operation or other mission by the President or Secretary of Defense ; and paid the same as an active duty member
Gray Area Retiree-retired from the Select Reserve but not having attained the age of 60; eligible for exchange, commissary and limited benefits but no retirement pay or provided medical
Retired- eligible at age 60(with some exceptions) for retired pay and full medical
2011 EnlistedMonthly Drill Pay Chart
Range is based on time in grade
Increases at two year intervals to 38 years
No Basic Housing Allowance (BAH), Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) or active duty medical care outside of deployment windows
May be their only source of income
Service Women’s Action Network
(212) 683-0015 x324
National Policy Reform
Community Outreach and Healing Workshops
National Peer Support Helplines
Military Sexual Trauma (MST)
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal implementation
Women in Combat
Veterans Health Care
Veterans Health Administration
Veterans Benefits Administration
What is MST?
38 U.S.C. 1720D defines MST as “psychological trauma, which in the judgment of a VA mental health professional, resulted from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while the Veteran was serving on active duty or active duty for training.”
Lack of women’s clinics and women-centric treatments
Second victimization of MST survivors
There are currently an estimated 13,100 homeless female veterans in the U.S.
Women veterans are up to 4 times more likely to be homeless than non-veteran women and male veterans
Approximately 45% of homeless veterans suffer from mental health issues, 70% are affected by substance abuse issues, and 40% of female homeless veterans report experiences of sexual assault in the military
Homeless women veterans are more likely to experience severe forms of mental illness than men
About a quarter of female veterans in the VA’s Homelessness Programs have minor children
Finding shelters that permit children and offer a safe environment is a primary obstacle for homeless women veterans
You have the right to be reemployed in your civilian job if you leave that job to perform service in the uniformed service and:
notice of your service;
services while with that particular employer;
after conclusion of service; and
discharge or under other than honorable conditions.
If you are eligible to be reemployed, you must be restored to the job and benefits you would have attained if you had not been absent due to military service or, in some cases, a comparable job.
* Servicemembers Civil Relief Act [SCRA] provides protections in civil litigation for family law, foreclosure, eviction, consumer and other issues;
* Extensive law library on SCRA at the ROA Servicemembers Law Center website
* Client resources, including interactive letters and videos, at statesidelegal.org
* there may be a State law version of SCRA in your jurisdiction – which can also be important;
Link/use www.nationalresourcedirectory.gov (national, state and local services and resources for military and veterans)
Implement some/all of our “10 strategies” to improve legal aid support to military and veteran households
VHA Directive 2011-034 allows VA facilities to provide free office space to legal service organizations which assist veterans (a WV law school clinic is already using this approach for a medical/legal project)
Funding Opportunities are limited but
* VA “Supportive Services for Veteran Families” SSVF grant program includes legal services as a funded service –RFP just released at www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp. ;
* National Defense Reauthorization may include $500,000 for pro bono legal representation to members of the Armed Forces;
* Local foundations often prioritize this client population;
Pete Duffy: [email protected]
or phone 202-789-0031
Rachel Natelson: [email protected]
or phone 212-683-0015
Bill [email protected]
or phone (202) 461-4902
Capt. Sam Wright: [email protected]
or phone 202-646-7730
Nan Heald: [email protected]
or phone 207-774-4753
Today’s CLE materials will be posted atwww.statesidelegal.org/