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Pro-bono legal services for low income veterans

Attorney General Mark R. Herring has announced that a pro-bono Veterans Legal Services Clinic for low income veterans will take place in November.

It will take place on November 17th at the Petersburg Freedom Support Center, located at 32 West Washington Street, Petersburg, Virginia 23803.

During the daylong event, volunteer attorneys from Attorney General Herring’s office and the VSB will serve low income veterans by drafting important estate planning documents like wills, powers of attorney and advance medical directives.

Representatives from DVS will also be present to answer questions regarding state and federal benefits that may be available to Virginia veterans including health benefits, disability benefits, financial services, education benefits, burial in a Virginia or United States’ veterans cemetery, and more.

Qualified veterans can sign up on Attorney General Herring’s website, at their local DVS Benefits Services Field Office, or by completing and mailing an application to the Attorney General’s office.

“The legal services these clinics provide are very important, but they can often be too expensive for a veteran who may be retired or on a fixed income,” said Attorney General Herring.

“I have had the tremendous opportunity to visit all five of our clinics across the Commonwealth where we have been able to serve more than 150 veterans and their spouses,” Herring said. “It has been so rewarding to witness the peace of mind we have provided these men and women who have given so much to Virginia and our country. This has been a tremendously fruitful partnership with the Department of Veterans Services and the State Bar, and I look forward to growing the program even more in the months and years ahead.”

Since March, Attorney General Herring, DVS, and VSB have held five pro bono Veterans Legal Services Clinics.

Additional details about the clinic for low income veterans including qualifications and sign up links can be found at ag.virginia.gov

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Veterans in business

According to an article in slate.com fewer veterans are becoming entrepreneurs. Last century, a stunning 49.7 percent of World War II vets went on to own or operate a business, according to Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families. So far, only 4.5 percent of the more than 3.6 million people who have served in the U.S. military since September 11, 2001, have launched a company, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This has a large impact on the US economy. The average small business employs two people which means there’s a giant gap in potential job market. To give you a better idea, if this generation were creating businesses at a rate closer to those who came home after Korea, they’d have started about 1.4 million companies already, and that would have created about 2.8 million jobs.

Some have pointed to the lack of in-service mentorship for current service members, while others have said that coming home and starting a business is not as easy as getting a job and settling. Let’s not forget that there have also been drastic changes in the economy and we live in a different time altogether. A returning soldier used to be able to easily segue from running a platoon to running an assembly line and then move up through management, along the way gaining the necessary skills to start a business. Those manufacturing jobs have mostly vanished, eliminating what was once an important bridge from the military to the civilian world.

And while vets are generally more capable and entrepreneurial than your average Joe, another thing that has changed is that the current version of the GI Bill no longer provides access to low-interest loans to start a business, while the older version of the Bill did have that access.

Another major difference is that in WWII era, there was a draft, pulling from all segments of society, while today with the all-volunteer armed forces, those signing up are far more likely to be members of a military family, making it more difficult for returning vets to create new inroads and networks outside of that group.

And yet American Veterans are overcoming the difficult situations and starting businesses of their own, even if at a lower rate than before. Especially women. Women vets are starting businesses at rates that far outstrip those of their male peers, civilian and former military alike. Between 2007 and 2012, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, the number of women veteran-owned companies almost quadrupled, to about 383,000 from just 97,000. In 2008, 2.5 percent of veteran business owners were women; by 2012, that number had climbed to 4.4 percent.

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Veterans Affairs – The Good and The Bad

Recently coming under fire for scandals involving massive art purchases and wasteful spending, along with wait times and scheduling incompetence which literally have cost some veterans their lives, not to mention the suicide help line, David Shulkin, undersecretary for health at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs made statements in the VA’s defense.

“Talking about veteran suicide isn’t easy, but it’s something the experts at the Department of Veterans Affairs do every day. Our prevention work is constant, and our commitment to veterans extends 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Last year, our Veterans Crisis Line dispatched emergency responders to individuals in need about 30 times every day and made 80,000 referrals to suicide prevention coordinators at VA medical centers.”

He continued, in a piece written for Tribune News Service, “We know we are saving thousands of lives, but we’re certainly not celebrating. We know that too many veterans are still struggling and that we have more work to do. Even one life lost is one too many, and it grieves us — especially our dedicated employees, many of whom are veterans who spend late nights and holidays away from their families — that this problem has endured.”

Shulkin specifically addressed the suicide hotline issue, “Recent media reports claiming calls to the Veterans Crisis Line are rolling over or going unanswered are simply untrue. What is true is that the VA, like other organizations that operate crisis lines, does rely on backup centers. But these aren’t your average call centers. They’re operated by trained responders and are used only when the VA line is overwhelmed by calls.

When backup is needed, the VA utilizes the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This crisis line network was established by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Mental Health Association of New York City and is independently evaluated by a federally funded investigation team.

What’s also true is that we are currently strengthening the Veterans Crisis Line by doubling its size, opening a new hub in Atlanta and using best-in-class business practices to improve capacity and our effectiveness as a life-saving resource. This will soon allow us to answer all calls to the crisis line with trained VA responders. Yet we recognize more is needed.”

While companies continue, there is at least an awareness that more needs to be done for American Veterans. Aid is available at The Veterans Crisis Line www.veteranscrisisline.net or by phone at 800-273-8255

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American Veterans Aid on Current VA Application Process

The new application process will enable war era veterans to attain the benefits which they deserve. The VA has recently announced the implementation of a new application process for VA health benefits. They published a final regulation on September 12 that allows former service members to apply for VA health benefits over the phone. According to American Veterans Aid, a private company committed to helping war era vets and their surviving spouses receive Aid & Attendance Benefit, this recent move will not just benefit veterans—it will also benefit the VA itself.

As a company dedicated to serving war vets and their family, American Veterans Aid is extremely happy about the VA’s new application process. “This new process is going to help many veterans across the nation,” says a spokesperson from American Veterans Aid. “Some of them can barely manage to step out of the house due to certain health conditions, so being able to apply over the phone is definitely going to make things a lot easier for them.”

American Veterans Aid was founded in 2010 by a war vet after learning that many veterans were having a hard time getting VA benefits. Wanting to help find a way for veterans to receive benefits without unnecessary delays, he, together with his partner, formed a team of 23 members that would provide world-class service to veteran clients needing health benefits. The company has helped more veterans and their spouses apply for and get the Aid and Attendance Benefit than any other firm in the United States.

“Vets are not the only ones that are going to benefit from this new procedure,” adds the spokesperson. “The VA is going to save a lot of time, money and resources by allowing veterans to apply over the phone. “

Previously, vets had to either apply in person at a VA medical center or submit a paper application to the department. This procedure was so inefficient and slow that it created a backlog of 847,882 applications that spanned nearly 15 years and included submissions from over 300,000 deceased veterans.

Fortunately, after the VA inspector general gave a report on the backlog a year ago, the VA eventually took the right steps to change the outdated application process and removed a requirement that needed applicants to physically sign the necessary paperwork.

Now, vets can apply over the phone, and VA employees will walk them through the process, including educating them on copayment requirements and third party insurance. Vets can also continue to apply for benefits in person, according to the VA. To learn more about the intracacies of VA benefits, visit: https://vimeo.com/americanveteransaid

About

American Veterans Aid is a company that helps war era vets and their surviving spouses receive the Aid & Attendance Benefit, a tax-free benefit given by the VA which provides financial aid to help offset the cost of long term care for those who need it. It was founded in 2010 by a war vet after learning that many vets were having a difficult time getting VA benefits.

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Wells Fargo Mistreats Veterans

Wells Fargo will pay $24 million to settle allegations that it mistreated veterans — including illegally repossessing their cars.

The bank, already in the thick of a major scandal over fake accounts, will pay $4.1 million to settle Justice Department charges that it seized 413 cars owned by service members without a court order, a violation of federal law.

The Justice Department said the illegal repossessions took place from 2008 to 2015. The first complaint came from an Army National Guardsman in North Carolina who said the bank seized his car while he was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.
Wells Fargo then auctioned his car and tried to collect a balance of $10,000 from his family, the Justice Department said.
The bank will pay $10,000 to each of the affected service members, plus lost equity in the cars with interest, and repair their credit.

The bank was fined $20 million more by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for breaking three provisions of the same law by denying members of the military certain banking protections, including capping their interest rates at 6%. Those violations began in 2006, the OCC said.

Wells Fargo said in a statement that it apologizes for not living up to its commitment of ensuring that all service members “receive the appropriate benefits and protections.”

“We have been notifying and fully compensating customers and will complete this work in 60 days,” the company said.

News of the penalties came as Wells Fargo and CEO John Stumpf faced the House Financial Services Committee at a hearing about the millions of fake bank and credit card accounts, plus claims that it retaliated against whistleblowers.

The company is also facing lawsuits from shareholders, former employees and customers. In the meantime, veterans would be wise to stay away from this fraudulent bank, and if they already hold accounts there, maybe it’s time to look into finding a new bank?

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