Many of us have just returned from NOVA’s Spring Conference in San Francisco, which by all accounts was very successful. I would like to thank the members of the Seminar Committee, all those who presented, and NOVA’s full-time staff members for their great efforts. We were again very fortunate to have presenters from outside NOVA – Judge Mary Schoelen, Thomas Murphy from Compensation, Robert Reynolds from Benefits, and two Veteran Law Judges. In addition, VA provided staff who registered more than half of the conference attendees for access to the Stakeholders Enterprise Portal (SEP). Hopefully these individuals will be on their way to better VA record access.
For a day prior to the conference, the Board of Directors met to discuss issues facing NOVA. As reported in our newsletters, members of the Board have been involved in many activities over the past several months. These include two meetings with VA compensation and IT personnel primarily regarding electronic record access; a meeting with Leigh Bradley, VA General Counsel, regarding the VA’s failure to provide copies of correspondence to a veteran’s representative of record and its habit of contacting a veteran directly about his/her claim; a roundtable meeting conducted by the House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee; a visit to the VA’s Newnan Evidence Intake Center; and participation in numerous telephone conferences with VA officials.
Going forward, NOVA will participate in a working group comprised of many of the roundtable participants to discuss changes to the VA’s appeal process. Topics will include eliminating the statement of the case and substantive appeal, delegating extraschedular authority to the RO, applying the treating physician rule, and eliminating remands through the authorization of development at the BVA. I am hopeful that meaningful changes to the appeal process can be advanced, resulting in time savings and other efficiencies. Another Board member is now engaged in a series of meetings in Washington dealing with the VA’s development of Automated Decision Letters. Lastly, NOVA has been asked to discuss changes being proposed in accreditation of agents and attorneys that will reportedly include the continuing education requirement. More is to follow on these topics.
Members of the Board have spent a great deal of time considering the issues facing NOVA and strategizing on how best to deal with these external challenges that affect our members and veterans. The fact that NOVA is being tasked so heavily is an encouraging sign as it speaks to our ability to be actively involved in important matters at VA at various levels. This access is due in no small part to the extraordinary efforts of our executive director, David Hobson, who has relentlessly plugged away to open doors for NOVA. While VA does not always give weight to our inputs, there is considerable value in the interaction itself, and our legal options always remain open.
As is evident from the preceding report, membership on the Board of Directors poses many challenges and can be time-consuming for those who volunteer. However, if you are committed to serving NOVA and not just serving on a board, then please consider becoming a candidate. One vacancy will be available for the term commencing on January 1, 2016. Feel free to contact any board member if you might be interested. The Nominations Committee will provide information on the election process prior to July as required by the bylaws.
The Board is also interested in gathering feedback from our members about their concerns and expectations. To that end, a survey is under development that will be conducted this summer with the results reported and discussed at NOVA’s upcoming Fall Conference in Chicago this October.
We have a very busy year ahead of us. Please stay tuned.
Until next time,
A group of Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) has brought a lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs over its new regulations mandating the use of standard claim and appeal forms. The American Legion v. McDonald was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on March 20, 2015 and entered in the court docket on March 26.
The plaintiffs are The American Legion, AMVETS, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the National Veterans Legal Services Program, and the Vietnam Veterans of America. The legal action comes as VA officially ended its decades long "informal claims" process on March 24.
Under the old system, a veteran could start a claim simply by submitting a letter or even a handwritten note or scrap of paper. The date of the informal letter or note became the official start date for any compensation payments if VA approved the claim.
Under the new rule, benefits will still go back to the date of claim or appeal, but that start date begins when the veteran actually files the VA’s formal, standardized paperwork. A veteran can also call a toll-free number and register his or her intent to file, thereby reserving the claim start date. However, no action on the claim will begin until the standard claim form is completed and filed.
VA insists that its new formal process will reduce confusion and make it easier to file claims, ultimately speeding up the process. The lawsuit claims that the new regulation prevents VA from considering claims that are supported by evidence in the VA’s record but have not been specifically claimed by the veteran.
The lawsuit also argues that the process severely limits the types of benefits that VA will adjudicate when presented with a disability benefits claim. For example, if a veteran files a disability claim for PTSD but fails to mention the loss of a leg in combat, VA is no longer obligated to develop or adjudicate benefits related to that amputation, even if the service treatment record documents it.
Those veterans who attempt to file a claim like before – informally by letter or note – will receive a letter of rejection from VA in return. And although the VA’s letter will instruct the veteran on how to properly file a claim, sources say it will not include the actual form required to do so.
VSOs involved in the lawsuit assert that ending the informal claims process is a breach of faith and statute with veterans. They say older veterans in particular may have difficulty reading and filling out the standard forms, or accessing and using a computer to file electronically.
On April 14, 2015, NOVA testified at a legislative hearing of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (HVAC) Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs (DAMA). NOVA Founding Member Kenneth M. Carpenter presented in-depth comments on several of the proposed bills before Congress. These include the Veterans Access to Speedy Review Act, the Express Appeals Act, the Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act of 2015, and the Ruth Moore Act of 2015.
H.R. 732 – Veterans Access to Speedy Review Act: NOVA supports the intent of this bill to encourage the use of video conferencing for the conduct of hearings before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. However, the bill’s title could cause some veterans to mistakenly assume that electing to have a video conference hearing versus an in person hearing before the Board will “speed up” the Board’s review.
H.R. 800 – Express Appeals Act: NOVA cannot support this bill for three reasons: (1) The bill would create two separate tracks for appeals; (2) To get an express appeal, the veteran must waive the right to submit additional evidence; (3) There is a very real possibility that this bill will mislead veterans to believe that if they give up their right to submit further evidence, then their appeal will be heard sooner.
However, NOVA does support the elimination of the need for a statement of the case and filing of a substantive appeal and the prohibition of remands for development. NOVA proposes this bill be converted from a pilot program to the implementation of structural changes to the VA’s appeal process which apply to all veterans and claimants immediately. A streamlined adjudication process should not be conditioned upon a veteran’s waiver of the right to submit evidence.
H.R. 1331 – Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act of 2015: NOVA supports the intent of this bill to place medical evidence provided by non-VA medical professionals in support of claims for disability compensation on an equal basis. NOVA suggests this bill be amended to codify the treating physician rule used by Social Security claimants, which will result in fewer denials and fewer appeals.
H.R.1607 – Ruth Moore Act of 2015: NOVA cannot emphasize enough how important this bill is to victims of sexual assaults which occurred while serving on active duty. If Congress does nothing else this year for veterans, it must pass this bill.
To access NOVA’s complete testimony, click HERE.
On April 6, 2015, the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Marine Corps veteran and thousands of other veterans seeking to compel the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs to decide initial disability compensation appeals that have been pending more than one year. The lawsuit specifically involves cases in which veterans are facing a medical or financial hardship.
To read Monk v. McDonald, click HERE.
Marine Corps veteran, Conley Monk, Jr., is named a plaintiff in the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). Mr. Monk, students from the Veterans Clinic, and Senator Richard Blumenthal ’79 held a press conference on April 6 to announce the lawsuit and detail how these long delays can have harmful impacts on the lives of many veterans around the country.
Today, hundreds of thousands of veterans await a decision from the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) on their applications for disability benefits arising from service-connected injuries, according to the lawsuit. Delays are endemic in the VA system, but according to VA’s statistics, the greatest delays of all involve initial administrative appeals, which can take years for VA to adjudicate. For elderly veterans, or veterans struggling with serious medical or financial problems, the years spent waiting for the VA to process their initial appeals impose enormous hardship, students from the clinic said.
“It’s frustrating to be stuck in limbo. It has been nearly two years since I began my initial appeal by filing a Notice of Disagreement and electing a Decision Review Officer hearing in July 2013, and the VA has still not decided my case,” said Conley Monk, the Vietnam combat veteran who is filing the lawsuit. “While waiting on the VA, my house burned down, and I’ve had significant medical problems, including a botched VA surgery. It’s been hard to make ends meet to get treated for my diabetes and PTSD.”
“I strongly support action to reform this broken appeals system because justice delayed for these veterans is justice denied, unconscionably and unacceptably,” explained Senator Blumenthal (D-CT), ranking member on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “I hear from hundreds of veterans whose benefit appeals have languished for months, even years. The VA needs to improve and enhance its processing of appeals from denial of critical benefit applications. I support more resources and additional staff who will expedite these benefit applications and appeals.”
“Mr. Monk brings this suit for himself and thousands of other veterans pursuing an initial appeal who do not have the resources to file a federal lawsuit to compel the VA to act,” said Julia Shu ’16, a law student intern in the Clinic. “The only legal option for a veteran whose initial appeal languishes in the VA system is expensive and time-consuming. Each veteran must retain legal counsel and apply individually to CAVC to request a court order that the VA decide his or her case. System-wide delays persist when the CAVC does not resolve an issue for all affected veterans in one decision.”
“This lawsuit is novel because judges of the Court have repeatedly recognized their power to adjudicate a class action-type case, but in the history of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, they have yet to do so,” said Will Hudson ’17, also a law student intern. “This is an appropriate case to recognize the first collective action and to bring relief to these veterans who should not be expected to wait any longer.”
The plaintiffs in this case are represented by law student interns William Hudson and Julia Shu, and supervising attorney Michael Wishnie of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School. The clinic, founded in the fall of 2010, represents individual veterans and veterans’ organizations on a range of matters. It is one of a small number of clinics in the country dedicated solely to serving veterans and their organizations.
Seven veterans who served in the Army, Air Force, Navy, or Marines are suing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), claiming that the agency has ignored written requests for their own records. Without the documents, the veterans cannot apply for military disability benefits and cannot seek a change in disability rating. To access the complaint filed on April 20, 2015, click HERE.
The veterans are represented by Public Citizen and the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP). The groups are asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to declare that VA has unreasonably delayed responding to the veterans' requests for their records and order VA to produce the records within 20 days.
"Disability benefits are critical for veterans suffering from injuries sustained in service to their country," said Rachel Clattenburg, the Public Citizen attorney handling the case. "Forcing a combat-wounded veteran to wait hundreds of days for records to apply for disability compensation is unacceptable. This lawsuit is not just about records; it is about ensuring that our country keeps its promise to its service men and women, and their families."
NVLSP Joint Executive Director Bart Stichman added: "Veterans who have been injured and disabled in combat should not be forced to wait months or years to receive their records from the VA so they can apply for disability benefits."
When a veteran asks for a copy of his or her claims file, the Privacy Act requires VA to make a copy of the file for the veteran or inform the veteran of the denial and the reason for the denial.
Five of the veterans in the lawsuit seek their records to enable them to apply to the Combat-Related Special Compensation program, which provides tax-free monthly payments to military retirees with combat-related disabilities. Those five have waited between 308 and 803 days.
Two of the veterans suing need their records to apply to the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) for a review of their disability ratings. They have been waiting 621 and 686 days, respectively.
"This delay is preventing me from applying for benefits that would help me to live a better life," said Juan Rodriguez, one of the veterans who needs his claims file to apply to the Physical Disability Board of Review. "It is unfair for the Department of Veterans Affairs to delay responding to the requests for so long."
To read the NVLSP press release, click HERE.
To read more on the case from Public Citizen, click HERE.
Hundreds of advocates gathered in San Francisco recently for NOVA’s 2015 Spring Conference. The New Practitioner Session on April 16 drew 180 participants together to share the fundamentals of veterans’ law. Close to 280 participants attended the General Session held on April 17-18.
More than half of the conference attendees took advantage of the opportunity to register for access to the Stakeholders Enterprise Portal (SEP), thanks to the help of VA staff stationed in the exhibitor’s area for the entire three-day event.
This was a great turnout for a West Coast conference, and it’s not surprising given the allure of the City by the Bay. We received many compliments on the conference setting – the Hyatt Regency Financial District – where folks really had a chance to unwind and enjoy the positive atmosphere that’s become a hallmark of NOVA conferences. Participants especially noted the “willingness of presenters and other NOVA members to answer questions and be available afterwards” for further discussion.
Unique to NOVA conferences, the New Practitioner Session was well received by those seeking essential “know how” from the best in veterans’ law. As one attendee described it, the training “takes you through [the process] step by step from sequence one.” Many described how helpful it was to have an entire day devoted to presentations on the fundamentals.
In sum, “solid presenters and materials” are what make the NP Session so worthwhile. Thanks to Zachary Stolz (Overview of VA Benefits Structure), Leslie Gaines (Walk Through A Claim), Chris Attig (Service Connection), Christopher Boudi (Downstream Issues), Robert Chisholm (Evidence Development), and VA Director Robert Reynolds (Electronic Access Through e-Benefits and SEP), our guest speaker of the day, for a job well done!
The two-day Spring Conference enlists a small army of experts who really delve into the nuts and bolts of VA law. Participants appreciated the “wide breadth of topics and the different viewpoints of speakers” and always, “the freedom to network.”
Short of repeating the entire roster of presenters for the General Session, the Board of Directors would like to thank ALL of those professionals who shared their knowledge and experience with the hundreds of advocates who came to hear them speak. The survey feedback has been resoundingly positive.
Once again, we were very fortunate to have several guest speakers from outside of NOVA address our assembly. They include: Thomas J. Murphy, VA Director of Compensation and Pension Service; Robert T. Reynolds, VA Director of Benefits Assistance; Judge Mary J. Schoelen of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims; and Judges Michael Kilcoyne and Jeffrey Parker, Board of Veterans’ Appeals.
Of course, it would not be a NOVA conference without Founding Member Kenneth M. Carpenter, whose presentations always reenergize the weary.
Lastly, NOVA wishes to thank everyone for making the 2015 Spring Conference such a great success! It takes a lot of hard work over the course of many months. Kudos goes to the members of the Seminar Committee, who volunteer their valuable time for this essential role. Led by Chairman Ralph Bratch, the committee includes Chris Attig, Ken Carpenter, Robert Chisholm, Glenda Herl, Matt Hill, and Bob Goss.
Working closely with the Seminar Committee, NOVA’s full-time staff members are dedicated to making sure that each NOVA conference is exceptional. We want to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of Meghan Dunham, Conference & Membership Coordinator, and Katy Whalen, Assistant Director, for leaving no stone unturned when it comes to orchestrating these events. Each training conference poses its own set of unique challenges, and NOVA is grateful to both Meghan and Katy for handling the job with skill and patience!
Your feedback is very important to us! If you attended either the New Practitioner Session or the Spring Conference (General Session) in San Francisco, please take a few minutes to fill out the New Practitioner Session Survey and/or the Spring Conference Survey. And let us know how we can change or improve our future conferences!!
To view photographs from NOVA’s Spring Conference, go to our facebook page by clicking HERE.
The National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates, Inc. (NOVA) presented its most prestigious honor – the Kenneth M. Carpenter Achievement Award for Excellence – to Wade R. Bosley, longtime veterans’ disability attorney, pro bono advocate, and partner of the law firm Bosley & Bratch. He accepted the award at NOVA’s spring training conference in San Francisco this month.
In 2001, the NOVA Board of Directors conceived of the Kenneth M. Carpenter Achievement Award for Excellence to honor this founding member and his immense contributions to NOVA and the field of veterans’ law. After cancellation of the 2001 Fall Conference in Atlanta due to the 9/11 terrorist attack, Ken Carpenter was finally presented with the surprise award at the 2002 Spring Conference in San Diego. Beginning in 2008, the Board has awarded the Kenneth M. Carpenter Achievement Award for Excellence at each spring conference, to a NOVA member who has made a significant contribution to NOVA or the practice of veterans’ law.
For the past 20 years, Mr. Bosley has exclusively represented military veterans and their families during the appeals process to obtain disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. He also pioneered the use of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as an element of damage and disability in personal injury cases and received the PTSD Vets, Inc. Service Award for his efforts in 2008.
A passionate volunteer, Mr. Bosley was named “2012 Pro Bono Advocate of the Year” by the Center for Veterans Advancement and NOVA for providing free services to homeless and underprivileged veterans and encouraging others to do the same. He also served NOVA as a two-term past president and board member.
A national speaker, Mr. Bosley has lectured from coast to coast on winning disability cases for veterans and their families. Prior to his exclusive practice of veterans’ law, he spent 25 years as a trial lawyer representing civilians in disability cases. During that time, he served as 2nd Lieutenant in the 38th Infantry Division, HHC, 138th Signal Battalion of the Indiana National Guard. His Military Occupational Specialty was the 11B Infantry.
Mr. Bosley earned his J.D. from Indiana University at Bloomington School of Law. He is admitted to practice before the Indiana Supreme Court; the U.S. District Court Northern & Southern Districts of Indiana; the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Chicago; and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, both in Washington, DC.
In addition to his sustaining membership in NOVA, Mr. Bosley is a member of the Indiana Bar Association, an associate lifetime member of Vietnam Veterans of America, and a life member of National Veterans Organization. He joined the firm of Bosley & Bratch in 1980.
Did you know? Recipients of the Kenneth M. Carpenter Achievement Award for Excellence include Rick Little (2014), Richard P. Cohen (2013), Carol Scott (2012), Hugh D. Cox (2011), Theodore P. Jarvi (2010), Barbara J. Cook (2009), Robert V. Chisholm (2008) and Kenneth M. Carpenter (2001).
Two of the nation’s leading advocacy organizations for veterans – the Center for Veterans Advancement (CVA) and the National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates, Inc. (NOVA) – awarded the CVA-NOVA Pro Bono Advocate of the Year Award to Rebecca C. Wanee, an Amory, Miss. veterans’ law attorney and native. She accepted the honor on April 18 at NOVA’s Spring Conference in San Francisco.
Established in 2009, the CVA/NOVA Pro Bono Advocates Program was created in response to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) initiative to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015 and the increased demand for legal assistance from poverty-stricken veterans. The annual award is given to an outstanding NOVA member who exemplifies the pro bono spirit by providing free legal services to veterans unable to afford them.
“As a result of her participation, Rebecca has provided tens of thousands of dollars in benefits to homeless veterans, enabling them to access permanent housing and other vital opportunities that lead to an independent life,” CVA Director and Program Manager Rick Little stated. “Rebecca exhibits an unparalleled enthusiasm, grit, and genuine advocacy spirit—indicative of a NOVA member.”
With some 40 participant law firms nationwide, the CVA/NOVA Pro Bono Advocates Program is one of the largest and most successful partnerships of its kind. NOVA members apply their advocacy skills in a variety of ways, from providing legal assistance with claims before VA and the various courts of appeal to helping a disabled veteran obtain a wheelchair or draft a will. The end game is for underprivileged veterans to become self-sufficient and then to sustain that independence.
From August 2009, Program partners have provided hundreds of hours of pro bono legal assistance to indigent veterans, valued at tens of thousands of dollars in labor-value. In addition, Program partners have obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars of desperately needed income for veterans and their families.
Ms. Wanee began her legal career in Columbia, S.C., working for several private practice firms before establishing her own. While there, she led the veterans’ disability team for Bluestein, Nichols, Thompson, & Delgado, LLC for nearly two years.
Relocating to her hometown in 2011, Ms. Wanee reopened her own law firm in Amory – devoted to the practice of Veterans law. With an additional office in Columbia, S.C., Wanee Law Firm, P.A. is a small practice with personalized service, yet capable of representing veterans and their families anywhere in the United States.
Ms. Wanee is accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs and is admitted to practice in the following jurisdictions and courts: Mississippi (1996); U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, U.S. Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, and U.S. Military Courts-Martial (1997); South Carolina (2004); U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina (2005); and U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (2006).
She earned her law degree from the Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson, Miss., graduating with distinction. After law school, she received a direct appointment as an officer in the United States Air Force Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps and served on active duty from November 1996 until June 2004. Now, as a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve, Ms. Wanee currently serves as a JAG officer in the Mississippi Air National Guard.
A NOVA member since 2006, Ms. Wanee currently serves on NOVA’s Congressional Testimony Committee and previously served as secretary on NOVA’s Board of Directors from 2010 to 2013. She is a member of the bar associations for South Carolina and Mississippi.
Did you know? Recipients of CVA-NOVA Pro Bono Advocate of the Year Award include Judge Clarke Barnes (2013), Wade Bosley (2012), and Tara Goffney (2011).
NOVA recently recognized 13 of its members for their outstanding participation in the CVA/NOVA Pro Bono Advocates Program over the past year. Representing 11 states and the District of Columbia, these NOVA members exemplify the pro bono spirit by providing a variety of legal services to veterans otherwise unable to afford them.
Those advocates honored for their participation in CVA/NOVA Pro Bono Program during 2014 are:
CVA and NOVA sincerely thank these advocates for their generosity of time and talent on behalf of underprivileged veterans and their families who so desperately need help.
The National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates, Inc. (NOVA) recognized the lifetime achievement of two of its longtime members – Theodore Jarvi and Wade Bosley – with induction into the NOVA Hall of Honor. Both attorneys accepted the honor at NOVA’s recent Spring Conference in San Francisco.
The Hall of Honor commemorates NOVA members who have demonstrated extraordinary service and leadership on behalf of our nation’s disabled veterans. Both 2015 inductees have dedicated their careers to the sole representation of veterans and their families whose claims have been denied by VA.
“These exceptional advocates epitomize what it means to devote one’s self to NOVA’s founding mission. Their contributions to the field of Veterans law, along with their advocacy on behalf of so many veterans and their families, are profound and immeasurable,” NOVA President Michael R. Viterna remarked at the induction.
Based in Tempe, Ariz., Theodore Jarvi has represented veterans from across the country for all types of VA claims, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Agent Orange-related diabetes or blindness, and Total Disability due to Individual Unemployability (TDIU). He served in the United States military from 1961 to 1970, went on to earn his J.D. from Arizona State University, and has practiced law for more than 40 years now.
A member of NOVA since 1993, Mr. Jarvi served as president of the organization from August 2004 to November 2006. During that time, he was instrumental in transitioning NOVA to a self-sustaining status. He is also recognized for his substantial contribution to regulatory comments on the VA’s proposed rules over the years. Mr. Jarvi received the Kenneth M. Carpenter Achievement Award for Excellence from NOVA in 2010.
Wade Bosley is a partner at Bosley & Bratch with offices in Indiana and Florida. He has represented military veterans and their families exclusively for the past 20 years. He spent 25 years prior as a trial lawyer representing civilians in disability cases. During that time, he served as 2nd Lieutenant in the 38th Infantry Division, HHC, 138th Signal Battalion of the Indiana National Guard. He also pioneered the use of PTSD as an element of damage and disability in personal injury cases. Mr. Bosley earned his J.D. from Indiana University at Bloomington School of Law.
A longtime NOVA member, Mr. Bosley served the organization as a two-term president (2008 to 2009). He was named “2012 Pro Bono Advocate of the Year” by the Center for Veterans Advancement and NOVA for providing services at no charge to homeless and underprivileged veterans and encouraging others to do the same. Mr. Bosley is also this year’s recipient of NOVA’s Kenneth M. Carpenter Achievement Award for Excellence.
Did you know? Previous inductees into the NOVA Hall of Honor are William G. Smith, Keith D. Snyder, and Kenneth M. Carpenter – all of whom are credited with founding the organization in 1993.
During the Spring Conference in San Francisco, NOVA took time to recognize those members who have reached major milestones in their membership. Each of the NOVA members in this group will receive a special commemorative coin to mark the occasion – bronze for 10 years, silver for 15, and the gold coin for 20 years of membership.
Each “challenge coin” features the NOVA logo and year of distinction on one side, and the military service emblems of our armed forces on the other. NOVA first awarded challenge coins at our 2013 Spring Conference, though the roots of this tradition date back much farther, as told here:
During World War I, American volunteers from all parts of the country filled the newly formed flying squadrons. Some were wealthy scions attending prestigious colleges, who quit mid-term to join the war. In one squadron, a wealthy lieutenant ordered solid bronze medallions with the squadron’s emblem for every member. He himself carried his medallion in a small leather pouch around his neck.
Shortly after acquiring the medallions, the pilot's aircraft was severely damaged by ground fire. Forced to land behind enemy lines, he was immediately captured by a German patrol. To discourage his escape, the Germans took all of his personal identification, except for the pouch around his neck. He was then taken to a small French town near the front, where he escaped during a bombardment that night. He was, however, without personal identification.
The pilot succeeded in avoiding German patrols and reached the front lines. With great difficulty, he crossed no-man's land. Eventually, he stumbled onto a French outpost. Unfortunately, the French in this sector had been plagued by saboteurs, who sometimes masqueraded as civilians. Not recognizing the young pilot's American accent, the French thought him a saboteur and were ready to execute him. Just in time, he remembered his leather pouch containing the medallion, which he showed to his would-be executioners. Recognizing the squadron insignia, his French captors delayed long enough for him to confirm his identity. Instead of shooting him, they gave him a bottle of wine!
Back at his squadron, all members agreed to carry their medallion or coin at all times. A new tradition was born. This was accomplished through a challenge: A challenger would ask to see the coin. If the challenged could not produce his coin, he was required to buy a drink of choice for the member who challenged him. If the challenged member produced his coin, the challenging member was required to pay for the drink. This tradition continued throughout the war and for many years after with the surviving squadron members.
Those NOVA members accepting the “Challenge of the Coin” this year are:
10-Year Recognition Award
Timothy Cuddigan – Cuddigan Law PC LLO, Omaha, NE
Patricia Dunn – Law Offices of Patricia M Dunn, Weymouth, MA
James Fausone – Fausone Bohn, LLP, Northville, MI
Allan T. Fenley – Fenley Law Office, Falmouth, ME
Virginia Girard-Brady – ABS Legal Advocates, P.A., Lawrence, KS
Barbara Burns Harris – Barbara Burns Harris, ESQ, PLLC, Washington, DC
Richard James – Henrico, VA
Nancy Mogab – Mogab & Hughes Attys PC, St. Louis, MO
Rebecca Patrick Wanee – Wanee Law Firm, P.A., Amory, MS
Barton Stichman – National Veterans Legal Services Program, Washington, DC
William D. Teveri – Lieberman & Mark, Washington, DC
15-Year Recognition Award
Leo D. Dougherty – Leo Dougherty Accredited Claims Agent, Tampa, FL
Gregory Keenum – Gregory D. Keenum, PA., Booneville, MS
Jill Mitchell-Thein – Heard & Smith, LLP, San Antonio, TX
Carol Scott – The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program, Washington, DC
Robert Walsh – Law Office of Robert P. Walsh, Battle Creek, MI
20-Year Recognition Award
Jeffrey Bunten – Jeffrey J Bunten LLC, St. Louis, Missouri
Robert V. Chisholm – Chisholm, Chisholm & Kilpatrick, Providence, RI
Robert Kampfer – Great Falls, MT
Marshall Potter, Jr. – Law Offices of Marshall O.Potter, Jr., Ashburn, VA
Michael Wildhaber – The Veterans Law Office of Michael E. Wildhaber, Washington, DC
Please join us in congratulating these longtime members! We take pride in the positive difference that each and every NOVA member makes in the lives of so many veterans and their families. Our nation’s veterans deserve the very best representation and that’s what NOVA members are all about!
Register for NOVA’s Summer Webinar by Kenneth Carpenter
NOVA will hold its next webinar – How to Successfully Plead a Request for Revision – on July 15, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time. NOVA Founding Member Kenneth M. Carpenter, renowned Veterans attorney and nationally recognized speaker, will lead you through the process of pleading and defending a request for revision – based upon clear and unmistakable error. NOVA Vice President Glenda Herl will moderate the two-hour presentation. In addition to how to plead this request, the webinar will cover how to defend a request for revision at both the administrative and judicial levels. Ken will also explain how to present an appeal to the Federal Circuit when the Veterans Court has denied an appeal of a Board decision on a request for revision.
A pioneer in the field of Veterans Law, Ken is the president of Carpenter Chartered, and has been engaged in the private practice of law in Topeka, Kansas since 1973. With a primary focus on representing psychiatrically disabled veterans, predominantly those with PTSD, the firm specializes in cases involving total disability ratings and earlier effective dates. The firm also handles requests for revisions based on allegations of clear and unmistakable error and survivor claims for dependents.
To register today, click HERE!
Available for Purchase: Chris Attig’s Plan for Profit Webinar
Presented by Board Member and Veterans Law Attorney Chris Attig, NOVA’s most recent webinar – “Plan for Profit: How to Build a Viable Veterans Law Practice” is now available for purchase. Learn Chris’ proven, personal approach to reaching profitability in the practice of Veterans Law.
This webinar covers the importance of setting a vision for profitability, how to make the best case selection decisions, formulas for calculating and projecting revenue and expenses, and other practical tips and pointers.
To make your online purchase, click HERE. NOVA members should log in first to receive a special discount price!
New VA Website Provides Easy Access to Benefits Help
Veterans looking for information on disability compensation benefits from VA have a new online resource. ‘Explore VA’ is dedicated to helping veterans learn about VA benefits, find out which ones they may be eligible for, share information with friends and family, and apply for benefits.
Visitors to ‘Explore VA’ can look at their eligibility for benefits for disability compensation, including:
Connect to ‘Explore VA’ by clicking HERE.
Go directly to the Disability Compensation page by clicking HERE.
VA Videos Focus on Pension Benefits, Form 21-527EZ
Veterans Pension is a supplemental income paid to low-income wartime Veterans to help them cope with financial challenges. Veterans who want to apply for VA Pension should use VA Form 21-527EZ to get the fastest decision. As a result, VA has released a two-part video series – Overview of VA Form 21-527EZ, Application for Pension – detailing the step-by-step process for filling out this form.
Part one walks applicants through pages 1-4 (the Notice) of VA Form 21-527EZ. To view this 7:44 minute video, click HERE. Part two goes through pages 5-8 (the Application portion) of the form. To view this 7:08 minute video, click HERE.
To get faster decisions on pension claims, VA recommends that veterans file their claim as a Fully Developed Claim. By submitting all of their supporting evidence at the same time as their 21-527EZ application form, veterans get a decision on their pension claim faster than the standard claims process.
To learn more about Veterans Pension, visit www.benefits.va.gov/pension.
Access the Spring 2015 Veterans Law Journal Now!
The CAVC Bar Association has just released the Spring 2015 edition of the Veterans Law Journal. Inside you'll find coverage of the churn of cases in the VA appeals process, articles on the Syracuse University College of Law Veterans Legal Clinic, and a Veterans Law-technology course at the University of Richmond's Law School, case write-ups, book reviews, and more!
To access an electronic copy, click HERE.
View the March 2015 Compensation Service Bulletin
The March 2015 issue of the Compensation Service Bulletin for Veterans Service Center Managers (VSCM) is available for viewing on the NOVA website. The table of contents includes:
To access the March VSCM Bulletin, click HERE.
Special Thanks to Our Spring Conference Exhibitors
NOVA thanks the following exhibitors for supporting our Spring Conference in San Francisco:
SE Vocational Expert - Allan S. Billehus, M.S., Ed.S., CRC, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Georgia and has over 18 years of experience in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling Services. He has worked in Long Term Disability, Worker’s Compensation, Brain Injury Inpatient/Outpatient Rehabilitation, State Vocational Services, Civil Forensic Issues, and Mental Health and Developmental Disability Services. He has extensive experience conducting Psychological, Cognitive, and Vocational Evaluations for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities, Dual Diagnosis, and Brain Injuries. Mr. Billehus is also on the panel of Vocational Experts for the Social Security Administration.
Prevail Case Management Software – Prevail is an all-in-one case management system that is designed for most law types, but is highly specialized for Veteran's cases. Whether your practice is diverse, or you handle only VA cases, you can manage every aspect of each case with Prevail. Contacts, critical deadlines, medical information, correspondence, email and scanning, and more can be tracked in the Prevail system. Learn how state-of-the-art, high quality case management solutions from Prevail can streamline your daily business activities.
Veterans Home Access LLC – based in Tempe, Arizona, this small company provides information on the Disabled Veterans Home Improvement and Structural Alteration (HISA) grant available to veterans. Veterans Home Access, also known as Tubs4Vets, works directly with VA to help eligible, disabled veterans obtain a walk-in tub or roll-in shower for little or no cost. A HISA grant is available to veterans who have received a medical determination indicating that improvements and structural alterations are necessary or appropriate for the effective and economical treatment of their disability. The HISA program is available for both service-connected veterans and non service-connected veterans.