Attorney Training Helps Veterans Who Are Suffering, 100116 CABARJ, CBJ - October 2016 #03

AuthorPsyche Pascual, Staff Writer.

Attorney training helps veterans who are suffering

No. 2016 #03

California Bar Journal

October, 2016

Psyche Pascual, Staff Writer.

It's been 48 years since Murl Craig was wounded in Vietnam, but those injuries are as fresh as if they happened yesterday.

It took months to recover from injuries suffered when his Jeep flipped over during the 1968 Tet offensive. The crash broke his chest and collarbone and gashed one knee. Back in his hometown of Walnut Creek, the symptoms multiplied His feet were always cold and numb. Walking across a room or stairs, he would stumble and fall. And then there were the sleepless nights, bouts of unexplained anger and irrational behavior, all later linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"I still have nightmares and flashbacks, and I do crazy things sometimes," said Craig, now 69.

It was no wonder that Craig fell on hard times and went to prison. I n 1989, he had two heart attacks, both linked to wartime exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange. When he got out in 2014, he filed for disability benefits from the Veterans Administration. But it wasn't until this year that Craig got them, mostly due to the pro bono help he got from an attorney trained to help veterans apply for VA benefits.

Millions of veterans across America need legal experts to get help from the VA

Unfortunately, the process of accessing and obtaining VA benefits is extremely complex and difficult to navigate - particularly when you're struggling to get your basic needs met," said Kate Richardson, legal services director for Swords to Plowshares in San Francisco.

In fact, a VA veterans appeals board denies about three out of every four combat veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder who have less than honorable discharges, she said.

To work with the VA attorneys must be accredited and complete three hours of legal education, which is why groups like Swords to Plowshares encourage attorneys who can do pro bono work to sign up for the Practising Law Institute’s free “Advocating for Veterans” CLE.

The course is schedule for Nov. 14 in San Francisco. Last year, more than 1,000 attorneys signed up for the program online and in person.

Swords to Plowshares works with more than 35 firms and corporations to connect members of the military with pro bono lawyers who can guide them through their legal problems, such as applying for disability benefits or discharge upgrades.

Veterans who don't have access to VA services...

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