NCFM Award Winner Craig Candelore (Lt Colonel Ret.) and NCFM Member Joy Punaro Veteran Clinic Report
NCFM Note: NCFM President Harry Crouch is a founding member and staunch supporter of Honoring Our Troops, an all volunteer organization doing great work with Veteran’s in Southern California. HOT office is adjacent to ours and several of their volunteers have been a big help to NCFM.
Report for the San Diego, CA. Honoring Our Troops Veteran Legal Clinic for Saturday, October 19, 2019.
A. Veterans Legal Clinic for Saturday, October 19, 2019
1. Date of Clinic: The Veteran Legal Clinic on Saturday, October 19, 2019, at the VFW Post 3787 convened from 9:00 AM. The clinic went from 9:00 AM to 11:40 PM. The Clinic serves as a Self-Help Clinic with Veterans helping Veterans.2. Clinic history: The Veteran Legal Clinic has been operating since early 2009. The Veteran Legal Clinic is proud to report that it has never missed, canceled, or postponed its scheduled Clinic since 2009.
3. Legal and Staff Personnel present and in picture, foreground: Volunteer, Michael Silverman, Vet-To-Vet peer support and suicide prevention left to right: Volunteer Attorney, Donald Gravalec; Volunteer Attorney; Al Limberg (USN Veteran); Volunteer Attorney; Craig Candelore, (USA Veteran) Volunteer Attorney; John Linderman, (USA Veteran); Volunteer Secretary, Joy Punaro; Volunteer Receptionist Sarah Tipton; Volunteer Mentor Victor Salazar-Newman, (USN Veteran).
4. Many Veterans who come to our clinic are in a state of transition due to unresolved legal issues they had before they left the service or acquired shortly after they were discharged. These unresolved issues hinder them from fully integrating back into society. Many of the cases we receive have been unresolved for years and prevents the veteran from obtaining needed benefits, employment, or housing. Many of the unresolved issues take multiple hours to resolve and are impossible to remedy overnight mainly because the legal system works at its own time and pace. Some veterans, due to PTSD or other health issues, avoid handling their legal issues. This causes their situation to grow worse and without our assistance and guidance, the veteran is left feeling helpless without the means to improve or make a better life for themselves.
5. Sit-Rep: In the Sit-Rep that we provide, for confidentially purposes we only use the Veteran’s Initials and branch of service. For some Veterans, we use XX if the case is unique and could be identifiable. We had a total of 13 veterans attend the clinic. Some of these veterans had more than one issue. Often the issues are so complicated that they jokingly become “law school exams.” The HRT attorneys were able to give some of the Veterans over an hour of face-to-face time because of the number of supporting attorneys and staff.
1) XX, USN. The mother of a Veteran seeking assistance for her son incarcerated in County prison to have him diverted to VA psychiatric care. Her son served in the Marine Corps for four years until he was discharged due to bouts of schizophrenia. At the beginning of the year, her son had a run in with the local police and was arrested for resisting arrest. While in prison he has been diagnosed as incompetent to stand trial but as been kept incarcerated. The son is calling his mother daily to get him out of prison. We explained that the mother needs to file for a conservatorship asap in Probate Court found at Madge Bradley Court. Have the son sign a stipulated agreement to the conservatorship. Obtain an ex-parte hearing or accelerated hearing for the court approval of the conservatorship. Contact the court diversion program to find out how to transfer a criminal case into the Veteran Diversion program. Present the Conservator order to the Public Defender and procedures to have the Veteran transferred into the VA custody. The Public Defender would then be encouraged to confer with the DA and seek an in-chamber’s conference with the criminal judge.
2) Veteran seeking assistance with his VA Disability Claim. Veteran went to the VA hospital and while in the VA hospital contracted heart problems. Veteran filed a VA Disability claim in lieu of a Federal Tort action. VA denied his original claim stating no nexus. He provided a medical nexus letter from a civilian doctor stating it was more likely than not that his heart problem emanated from his VA hospital stay. Suggested he file a supplemental declaration from the attesting outside medical physician regarding the level of severity of his heart ailment. Recommended declaration that attests to the diminution of quality of life.
3) BR, USMC Veteran seeking assistance with (1) Family Law matter and (2) Domestic Violence Restraining order. Veteran was in a relatively short-term marriage with no children. Veteran has limited funds. Explained the best course of action is a Summary Dissolution. Explained that he could seek a waiver of the filing fee. Explained that he should have Wife notarize her signature so she could not claim later that he had forged her signature. Veteran went on to say that Wife was harassing him with e-mails. Explained that eventually if this harassment continued after they filed for the joint Summary Dissolution, he could file for a restraining order. The bar for issuance of a Restraining Order is fairly low. Destroying the plaintiff’s “Zen” is good enough per the case of IRMO Nadkarni (29009).
4) JW, USMC Veteran seeking assistance with a concealed carry violation and resisting arrest criminal case. Veteran claims that he was former military police and has the presumptive right to carry a concealed weapon based on federal regulations. Second, Veteran claims the police made a false arrest. Veteran raises constitutional issues and Federal gun carrying statutes. We suggested he seek help with a Criminal Defense Attorney or Public Defender.
5) HS, USMC Veteran seeking assistance on multiple issues, namely (1) Family Law, (2) Social Security Disability, (3) increase in VA Disability rating and (4) possible Bankruptcy due to mounting debts. Husband moved to Kentucky a year ago and left her with his car loan debt for which she co-signed. Explained how to file for divorce and seek a hearing. The hard part was to serve the Ex. Explained that she needs to locate the Husband so a process server can serve him. Explained best is to hire a local process server who can coordinate with his affiliate in Kentucky. (2) Veteran has been denied SSD once. Explained that that is common. Explained she needs to get official copies of her VA medical records that shows she is 90% disabled and hand carry them to the DSS. (3) Veteran is experiencing chronic migraine headaches which she believes is related to her neurological issues from the service. Needs to obtain a medical nexus letter from her civilian treating physician to link the migraine to her military service. (4) Veteran has mounting debt with no light in sight. Her credit cards are maxed out. Given her rising debt we suggested she talk to a bankruptcy attorney.
6) EJ, USA veteran seeking assistance with several issues (1) Family Law Custody, (2) denial of TSGLI and (3) Discharge upgrade. (1) Veteran went through a bloody divorce. Wife accused him of multiple instances of domestic violence. He was charged with multiple counts of misdemeanor domestic violence. He said the DA overcharged the case to the turn of 29 counts and he accepted a plea bargain because he could not take the risk of losing at trial. He said the court system is not a level playing field. The court did not want to hear any of his exculpatory evidence. Now, he said, all he wants is to see his two daughters who he had not seen in 11/2 years. The criminal law judge had not made the children subject to the criminal protective order in place that Wife obtained. Suggested he obtain a declaration from his support group, My Child says Daddy, that they are willing to supervise the child visitation and file the declaration with the court. Then seek a hearing requesting supervised visitation until he completes his 52-week domestic violence course. We draft the declaration that we wanted this support group to sign to be filed with the court (2) He was turned down for TSGLI insurance benefits because there was date coverage issue. Explained that he needs to write a letter explaining the date discrepancy to the appellate board and CC the first level adjudicating officer. We drafted the letter he should send to the appellate board. (3) The veteran received a General under Honorable Conditions. He felt this discharge was unjust. He stated he accidently “p____ off” a colonel in his change of command and the rest is history. His motivation was to obtain a discharge upgrade so he could use the GI Bill. We explained that he needs to first obtain both his medical and personnel records and then develop a theme of the case. The discharge is presumptively correct. He has the burden to show that it was either procedurally or substantively incorrect or unjust. We filled out the application for him to obtain his medical and personnel records.
7) XX, USN veteran seeking assistance with a Family Law matter specifically arrearages. Veteran seeking assistance on how to negotiate a $50,000+ in child and spousal support arrearage claim by his Ex-Wife’s attorney. The settlement conference was schedule for next week. A family law hearing is scheduled for the end of October 2019. We reviewed the opposing counsel’s packet. The Ex-Wife’s support seemed to be air tight. The veteran had stipulated to arrearages in his Judgment of Dissolution in 2016 and later in DCSS court in 2018. Most of the arrearages had occurred when he lost his job and did not immediately file for a modification of support downward. His daughter is 17 and the marriage was 12-year in duration. His child support obligation would soon terminate, and we suggested that he make a motion to terminate spousal support so that all his payments would go toward arrearages.
8) AR, USA Veteran seeking assistance with a (1) VA Disability percentage downgrade and (2) old military wound acting up. (1) Veteran was infantry during his 4 years in the Army. He developed Plantar fasciitis or inflammation of the tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot and connects with the heel. He received 30% for this medical problem but during a recent evaluation reduced it to 10%. The Veteran feels that the VA doctor only gave him a cursory evaluation. The veteran does not have an outside physician who could give a counter evaluation. We suggested he find such a outside physician. Suggested he look for even a free clinic. We will also refer him to outside medical resources that act as primary care physicians for veterans would who do not have outside medical doctors to support their VA claims (2) the Veteran had submitted a claim for a hernia operation he had received in the military. Veteran claims that he was experiencing pain where the hernia operation had occurred. We suggested he look up open source medical research sites to seek if this was a recurring theme with veterans with in service hernia operations. We were aware of a lawsuit against the hernia messing producer.
9) ME, USN Veteran seeking assistance with VA Disability claim. Veteran wanted general guidance no how to work up a VA disability claim. We walked him through the mechanics. Explained the need for an in-service medical problem that persists and nexus between the two. Also explained that the veteran should show the diminution of quality of life because of the medical injuries. He was a referral from Marilyn Maxwell the VFW VSO from the VA center Mission Valley.
10) DG, USMC Veteran seeking assistance with a (1) VA Disability claim and (2) Social Security Disability. Walked through the process for both Disabilities. Explained that only the service-connected disabilities are considered for VA Disability purposes. Veteran wanted general guidance no how to work up a VA disability claim. We walked him through the mechanics. Explained the need for an in-service medical problem that persists and nexus between the two.
11) XX USN seeking assistance with an Employment Issue. Veteran applied with the Border Patrol and passed all his exams. However, he was turned down because the prospective employer thought VA disability could affect his job performance. We suggested he enter into a dialogue with the prospective employer to ascertain the thinking process and see if a letter from a doctor stating that the existing disabilities would not affect his job performance with the Border Patrol.
12) LM USN seeking assistance with an Estate dispute with siblings. Veteran’s father had a Living Trust. The father recently passed, and the Veteran is the successor Trustee. The Trust Estate included the father’s house and his shoe repair business. Veteran has recently discovered that his sister has filed legal documents to take possession of the house and the business premises and sold all the furniture and furnishings in house. The veteran did not know any of the underlying facts. We suggest he fly back to Chicago to ascertain the facts on the ground. We suggested he perform the following research: We explained that he needs to see if a probate case was opened. He needs to check the County Recorder’s office to see who is on title for his father’s house ie, the Trust or the sister. It is possible that the sister had the father revoke his Living Trust and change his Will using “undue influence.” Since the case is in Chicago, veteran needs to hire an Illinois attorney.
13) LA USN seeking assistance with Employment issues. Veteran worked at the Home Owners Association. She fell ill and went to the hospital and had minor surgery. The illness was not work related. She was absent for several weeks due to the illness. Due to her absence, her employer let her go. She asked if her employer could fire her. We explained that in California work is “at will.” If the employer felt, she could not perform her duties or was not available the employer can fire her. Veteran claims that the hospital left staples in her body which caused her an extended recuperation time. We suggested she had a possible medical malpractice issue. We explained that she needs to obtain her medical records from the hospital and have a medical expert review her records. An infectious disease specialist should review her current treatment. She should check the hospital protocol and cleanliness records which are often posted or available through state regulatory or compliance organization. Also, suggest some detective work such as contacting the Cal nurses’ association to locate nurses associated with this hospital who have left the hospital.
Director Honoring Our Troops
COL USA Ret.
501 (c)(3) Non-Profit # 90-0394562