April 22, 2019

HB 14-1205: Creating Veterans’ Assistance Grant Program to Provide Financial Assistance to Improve Health and Well-being of Veterans

On January 30, 2014, Rep. Su Ryden and Sen. Larry Crowder introduced HB 14-1205 – Concerning the Veterans’ Assistance Grant Program. This summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

The veterans’ assistance grant program (program) is created in the division of veterans affairs within the state department of military and veterans affairs to provide moneys to nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies that provide services to ensure the health and well-being of veterans of the United States armed forces who live in Colorado.

On or before Sept. 1, 2014, the adjutant general, in consultation with the board of veterans affairs, shall adopt rules for the administration of the program, including but not limited to:

  • Criteria for determining which nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies are eligible to receive moneys from the program; and
  • Procedures by which eligible organizations may apply for and receive moneys from the program.

The veterans assistance grant program cash fund is created and consists of any moneys received by the division as gifts, grants, or donations and such moneys as are appropriated to the fund by the general assembly. The program is repealed, effective Sept. 1, 2024. Before such repeal, the department of regulatory agencies shall review the program.

On February 17, 2014, the House Committee on State, Veterans, and Military Affairs referred the bill, unamended, to the Appropriations Committee.

Introducing the New Commission and Proclaiming October 2012 Legal Professionalism Month

When I became Chief Justice in December 2010, I wanted to bring together the three major groups of the legal profession—the bar, the judiciary, and the legal academy—to better address the needs of the community in which we all serve. In the hopes of achieving this vision, in February 2011, I formed the Chief Justice’s Commission on the Legal Profession (Commission) to focus on four primary goals:

  1. improving the training of law students to help them better appreciate the vital role that attorneys play in our society;
  2. increasing the training of and providing more support for new lawyers;
  3. facilitating communication and cooperation between and among judges and attorneys; and
  4. encouraging the entire bar to recognize the broad legal needs of our community and improving public attitudes toward the profession through a renewed dedication to pro bono service.

Ultimately, I hope the Commission will serve as a forum for judges, attorneys, and legal educators to develop ideas that might eventually lead to legislation, rules, or substantive changes in law school curricula to better address the needs of the legal profession and our community as a whole.

The Commission, which meets quarterly, is comprised of practicing lawyers from various specialties, the deans of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law (DU) and University of Colorado Law School (CU), and appellate and trial judges from across the state. From this group, we formed four working groups to focus on each of the goals set forth above.

Working Group A: Legal Education

For the past year, Working Group A has sought to address the development of professional identity, social responsibility, and practice skills in law students and to increase the involvement of judges and bar leadership within our two law schools. To this end, it has worked closely with CU and DU to develop an annual event that will introduce law students to the concepts of professionalism and social responsibility.

We are excited to announce that the inaugural event—entitled “For This We Stand”—will take place on September 22, 2012. This two-part event will bring firstyear law students together in Denver from both Colorado law schools. The students will congregate in the Denver Athletic Club’s Grand Ballroom for remarks about the profession of law and the importance of practicing with professionalism. Sharing with me the honor of addressing the students will be U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Krieger, Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Russell Carparelli, and CBA 2012–13 President Mark Fogg.

Following the presentations, the students will break into smaller groups and go to the Denver City and County Building, where they will meet in a courtroom with a judge, a lawyer, and a former client. There, they will hear stories about the positive impact the profession can have on the lives of clients and society.

The conclusion of the event will be interactive. The students will participate in discussions about the vital role that reputation and relationships play in achieving a successful and fulfilling career.

Working Group B: Newly Admitted Attorneys

When the Commission first met, it identified the mentoring of new lawyers as the most pressing need in the legal community. Working Group B, in partnership with the CBA and Denver Bar Association (DBA), have been addressing the development of professional identity and social responsibility for newly admitted attorneys through mentoring programs.

Statewide Mentoring Program

A pilot study was initiated and a model for a prospective statewide program was developed by the CBA to assist several local bar associations, the law schools, the Yasui Inn of Court, the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association, and the Adams County District Attorney’s Office. Mentors and mentees earn fifteen CLE credits, including two ethics credits, for participating in the one-year program. The CBA has provided necessary staffing for the program.

The DBA’s mentoring program, which began more than two years ago and has more than seventy mentor and mentee pairings, has provided valuable background information for the pilot study. CU has a unique program that matches a mentor attorney, a mentee attorney, and a law student to jointly handle a pro bono case.

Working Group B and the mentor program standing committee will make recommendations to the Commission about funding and the hiring of an executive director. It is looking into expanding the program statewide.

Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans

Working Group B, again in partnership with the CBA and local bar associations, also has worked to increase community outreach and opportunities for new and seasoned attorneys to engage in community service. The creation of Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans, which the CBA has been instrumental in coordinating, is an outcome of this effort.

Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans kicked off its efforts on Veterans Day 2011 with pro bono clinics in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins. At its Veterans Day event, the Denver clinic accepted fifty-five cases. It has taken nearly 100 additional cases since then. As a result of the success of the first event and the continued demand within the community, the Denver clinic has begun to hold an event on the second Tuesday of each month and plans to continue the tradition of holding a larger annual event on Veterans Day. Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans also is planning to conduct clinics in Pueblo, Alamosa, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins, and at CU’s Boulder campus.

Finally, the group hopes to expand its efforts so it can provide monthly clinics at DU, as well as in Grand Junction and Durango. I am especially excited about this program, which provides our veteran heroes vital pro bono services while also increasing the opportunities for attorneys to engage with our community. If you are interested in supporting or participating in Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans, please contact John Vaught at vaught@wtotrial.com or Ben Currier at benc@m-s-lawyers.com.

Working Group C: Bench and Bar Cooperation

The goal of Working Group C is to identify and implement strategies to facilitate communication and professionalism between and among judges and lawyers. Working Group C members have met with leaders of our many bar organizations and Inns of Court to explore ways to foster professional relationships and promote a collaborative culture of civility and respect.

As a result of this input, Working Group C has determined that one way to bring increased awareness to these vital issues is to establish an annual Legal Professionalism Month. Accordingly, CBA President David Masters, the Chief Justice’s Commission on the Legal Profession, and I proclaim the month of October 2012 to be Legal Professionalism Month.

As explained in the Proclamation (which appears at the end of this article), October 2012 will be a month for attorneys and judges to rededicate themselves to the importance of public service and community outreach. There will be professionalism events and pro bono activities throughout the month.

Legal Professionalism Month will culminate in “The Assembly of Lawyers” on the afternoon of October 29, 2012, at the Boettcher Concert Hall. This event, which will immediately precede the swearing-in ceremony for new attorneys, is intended to bring together lawyers from across the state to reflect on the importance of service in our profession. Although this event is still in the planning stages, we intend to grant CLE credit for attendance and expect to include an influential speaker on the subject of legal professionalism. Afterward, the assembled attorneys in Boettcher Hall will be joined by the newly admitted attorneys for a special session of the Colorado Supreme Court to administer the Attorney’s Oath. By their presence, the assembled lawyers will make visible the fact that we welcome the new attorneys into our great profession.

Working Group D: Outreach to the Community

Working Group D has focused its efforts on supporting the profession’s culture of service and increasing access to justice. To this end, Working Group D has reached out to and begun to collaborate with organizations such as the Colorado Access to Justice Commission, Colorado Legal Services, and Make History Colorado. This group has recognized that pro bono opportunities serve to benefit the community at large and provide fertile training ground for new lawyers to obtain trial experience. Collaboration in pro bono activities also could serve as a way to bond mentors and mentees through joint participation and representation.

Consistent with the recommendations of the Colorado Access to Justice Commission, Working Group D has focused on encouraging members of the private bar, government attorneys, in-house counsel, and newly licensed lawyers to increase their participation in pro bono representation. The members of this group plan to meet with the managing partners of metro area law firms to discuss how to remove existing barriers to pro bono service and to explore the viability of collecting pro bono data as an incentive to increase participation. Additionally, Working Group D will continue to publicize and advance the efforts of Make History Colorado and to collaborate with the CBA on its work with pro bono and unbundled legal services. Finally, following the successful model of the Adams County pro se Self-Help Center,1 Working Group D plans to identify additional sources of funding to establish self-help centers across the state.

Galvanizing Professionalism

After a productive and inspiring inaugural year, several prominent themes have emerged from the Commission’s work. I believe our profession has been and continues to be a positive force for society. However, at times—in the face of economic and professional pressures, for example—we have lost our way.

Accordingly, I believe that now is the time for each of us to renew our efforts to the legal profession through increased civility toward one another and by instilling these values in law students and new lawyers. Finally, we must rededicate ourselves to the service of society, including the most vulnerable among us. To galvanize and focus these efforts, CBA President David Masters, the Chief Justice’s Commission on the Legal Profession, and I proclaim the month of October 2012 to be Legal Professionalism Month.

Note

1. The Self Help Resource Center at the Adams County Justice Center is available at www.courts.state.co.us/Courts/District/Custom.cfm?District_ID=17&Page_ID=335. See also “Online Pro Se Resources” at www.courts.state.co.us./Self_Help/proSeResources.cfm.
Proclamation: Declaring October 2012 Legal Professionalism Month In the State of Colorado

The Colorado Lawyer, the official publication of the Colorado Bar Association, serves as an informational and educational resource to improve the practice of law. When you see the logo, you’re reading an article from The Colorado Lawyer. CBA members can also still read the full issue online at cobar.org/tcl.

Colorado’s Justice Crisis

It’s a perfect storm.  Although overused, that metaphor so accurately captures what is happening with respect to Colorado’s legal aid delivery system that it is difficult to avoid.  Just as in a perfect storm, a rare combination of circumstances has resulted in a crisis of unprecedented magnitude.

Colorado Legal Services (CLS) is the only program in the state that provides free legal assistance (advice, brief service, and full representation) in civil matters to low-income individuals and families in every Colorado county.  With 14 offices around the state, it operates like a legal emergency room, serving low income Coloradans at greatest risk and in greatest need.  In 2010 alone, CLS provided assistance to over 11,000 indigent clients facing serious legal problems that directly implicated their health, safety, stability and sufficiency.  With few exceptions, CLS clients live at or below 125% of the federal poverty guideline (which translates to an annual income of $13,613 for an individual and $27,938 for a family of four).  They include senior citizens, victims of domestic violence, veterans, persons with mental and physical disabilities, and other particularly vulnerable Coloradans.

Even before the recession, the need for legal aid among the poor outstripped available resources.  A study in 2005 found that for every client served by CLS, at least one person seeking help was turned away because of insufficient resources.  The Great Recession and its aftermath have made the situation dramatically worse, as more and more low-income Coloradans experience the significant legal problems that accompany acute economic distress and prolonged unemployment.  With the deterioration of the labor and housing markets, rising fuel and food costs, and depleted savings, more Coloradans are facing eviction, foreclosure, delinquent child support, hunger, financial distress, bankruptcy, and domestic violence.  In addition, prolonged un- or under-employment means that the number of people eligible for legal aid continues to rise.  The most recent Census Bureau survey found that there are now over 750,000 Coloradans who are income-eligible for services.

Amidst this rising tide of need, CLS is experiencing devastating funding losses that threaten to compromise its ability to meet even the most serious legal needs of the poor.  Federal funding, with strong bipartisan support, has long been a financial foundation for legal aid.  Yet, notwithstanding the increased need for legal services and the value of those services in stabilizing families in crisis, just before Thanksgiving, Congress approved a budget bill for 2012 that includes a 14.85% cut in funding for legal aid programs such as CLS.  This translates into a loss for Colorado of over $605,000.

This latest reduction in federal funding comes on top of other funding losses suffered over the last two years totaling nearly $1 million.  Most notable among these is the drop in funding from COLTAF, the Colorado Lawyer Trust Account Foundation.  The extended period of very low interest rates that we are experiencing (now expected to continue until at least mid-2013) has decimated COLTAF’s revenue, which is comprised solely of the interest earned on lawyers’ trust accounts, and although COLTAF has a reserve, built in better times for just such times as these, it is rapidly being depleted.  Even with the reserve, COLTAF funding for CLS has dropped by $630,000 over the course of the last two years, and COLTAF is projecting another cut to CLS of at least $520,000 in 2012.

Also important is a loss of $165,000 in state funding for legal services for victims of domestic violence.  Whether the state will be in a position to restore that funding for fiscal year 2013 remains to be seen, but an actual increase in the state appropriation, and certainly one anywhere near the magnitude necessary to cover for other losses, is not in the cards, given the state’s current budget constraints.  All told, by the end of 2012, CLS will likely be down over $2 million, or more than 20% of its funding just two years ago.

All of these funding losses mean that CLS, already woefully understaffed, will shrink further, which will necessarily reduce the legal assistance available to low-income Coloradans, regardless of their legal need.  Already, where there were six CLS lawyers doing family law cases in the Denver metro area, which has an indigent population of nearly 300,000, now there will be only five;  where there were four lawyers handling evictions and other housing issues, three will have to suffice; and where there were three doing foreclosure defense, now there will be two.  Other parts of the state are faring no better.  In Grand Junction, with an indigent population in Mesa County of about 17,000, there are now only two CLS lawyers, where formerly there were three.  The CLS offices in Colorado Springs and Alamosa have each lost a paralegal, and the Durango office has lost the sole member of its support staff, leaving just three lawyers and a paralegal to serve the entire southwest corner of the state, including the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Indian Reservations.  This serious understaffing is only going to get worse.

Bar-sponsored pro bono programs alone cannot be expected to pick up this much slack, particularly since they too are suffering from cuts in their COLTAF funding.  Nor can the court system, also suffering from inadequate funding, be expected to seamlessly absorb ever larger numbers of pro se litigants, especially if timely legal assistance would have eliminated the need for them to be there in the first place.  It is true that to maximize access for those in greatest need, a well-functioning civil legal aid delivery system must have well-managed pro bono programs; it must have a legal community committed to providing pro bono services to the poor; it must have self-help resources that make courts and administrative agencies accessible for those who are proceeding pro se; and it must maximize its use of technology to improve access in rural areas and otherwise.  But the backbone of any well-functioning system must be an adequately-funded, staffed legal aid program, with lawyers and paralegals, who are expert in dealing with the problems unique to low-income populations, and who are available on demand when low-income families are in crisis and time is of the essence.

The legal profession has a singular responsibility to respond to this crisis in our civil justice system.  CLS is the place of last resort for low-income families, the disabled, veterans and military families, and seniors who are facing serious civil legal problems.  If turned away, these Coloradans are effectively denied the rights, remedies, and protections afforded by the law, sometimes with devastating consequences – lethal injuries at the hands of an abusive spouse, a home lost to an unscrupulous lender, life on the street because of a wrongful denial of disability benefits.  As lawyers, we understand that the rule of law is in jeopardy when the protections of the law are not available to increasingly large numbers of our most vulnerable citizens.

The leadership of lawyers – whether in private practice or in-house corporate counsel, large firm or solo practice, government or nonprofit – is more important than ever in fulfilling our nation’s promise of equal justice for all.  The effect of CLS’ funding losses is calculable in terms of dollars lost, staff positions eliminated, and additional applicants for service turned away.  But the actual impact on the lives of low-income Coloradans, the damage to our communities, the tarnishing of our nation’s fundamental promise of equal justice, and the risk to our civil justice system and the rule of law is immeasurable.

Here are some things you can do to help:

  1. Give generously to the Legal Aid Foundation (http://www.legalaidfoundation.org/).
  2. Take a pro bono case from Metro Volunteer Lawyers (http://www.metrovolunteerlawyers.org/).
  3. Speak to your elected representatives (federal and state) about the importance of public funding for civil justice.
  4. Speak with your banker to ensure that the interest rate on your COLTAF account is as generous as possible.
Diana Poole is the Executive Director of the Legal Aid Foundation, which raises money for Colorado Legal Services, and COLTAF, which administers Colorado’s IOLTA program. She is also a member of the Colorado Access to Justice Commission.

Colorado Lawyers Step Up for Colorado Veterans

 By Benjamin Currier & John Vaught

Access to justice for all Americans is an issue that is constantly evolving in an effort to meet the needs of those who cannot afford traditional legal services. With governmental budgets and outreach programs being pared, the communities that most rely on pro bono legal services are compelled to turn to individuals and to private initiatives to meet their ever-expanding need. Some groups have enjoyed success and are gaining access to justice through innovative means, but many have not. Among this latter group are our military veterans, active duty military personnel, and their families.

In an attempt to meet the needs of Colorado veterans and service members, the Colorado Bar Association is developing a statewide pro bono legal services initiative to provide legal service to Colorado veterans, some active duty service members, and their families— Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans. This program is structured to provide free legal advice through clinics held around the state and also provide pro bono and low fee legal services to individuals who require further help.

Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans will begin the first of many free clinics on Nov. 11 in Denver and Colorado Springs, and on Nov. 10 in Fort Collins.

It is estimated that one-third of the adult homeless population are veterans, and a vast number of other veterans also are in need of legal help but unable to afford and receive the assistance they desperately require. Many national reserve, retired, or otherwise discharged veterans do not have access to legal services. Active duty service members receive some assistance from the Judge Advocate General’s Corps; however, many still have legal issues and problems that are not met by the current active duty legal services and do not have the resources to afford legal services to solve their problems. Because of this, Colorado attorneys and the CBA are reaching out to help veterans with their legal needs and problems.

This program is consistent with the recommendations made by the Chief Justice Michael Bender, as part of the Chief Justice’s Commission on the Legal Profession. Modeled after a similar program in Texas, it is being led by a joint collaboration between the Commission, CBA President-elect Mark Fogg, John Vaught, CBA Young Lawyers Division Chair Benjamin Currier, CBA Executive Director Chuck Turner, and staff members of the DBA and CBA, including Carolyn Gravit, Heather Clark, and Denise Lynch.

The Denver event is scheduled to be held at the Bo Matthews Center, at 3030 Downing St., from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This initial Denver event will be staffed by law students, young lawyers, and other Colorado attorneys. In addition to these volunteers, a Colorado-based service organization called Challenge America will be present to help guide veterans through the maze of other benefits available to them. This highly anticipated event is the first of many steps to try to serve the needs of Colorado veterans, one veteran at a time.

We are currently searching for volunteers to assist for future clinics across the state. We also are looking for individuals who are willing to take on pro bono and low fee cases to help veterans in need. If you are interested in helping, please contact Carolyn Gravit at cgravit@cobar.org. We look forward to seeing you and helping with this new and exciting effort to provide pro bono legal services to Colorado veterans and service members.

The Docket eFile brings features from your favorite Denver Bar Association publication to you digitally. When you see the logo, you’re reading an article from The Docket. You’ll also still be able to read the full issue online at denbar.org/docket.

Denver Drug Court Opens a Special Track for Veterans

Earlier this month, the Denver Adult Drug Court implemented a Veterans Track within its existing problem-solving courts program. As a result, some military veterans charged with non-violent crimes may now have the opportunity to be enrolled in the court-monitored treatment and accountability program.

The drug court program was expanded to create the new track, which is designed to balance the specialized treatment needs of veterans with the need to protect the community’s safety. The goal is to provide non-violent offenders with effective treatment while still holding them accountable for their actions.

According to the press release from State Judicial, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals reports that one in six veterans returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq suffer from a substance abuse challenge; one in five has symptoms of a mental disorder or cognitive impairment. Post-traumatic stress disorder can be an underlying factor in crimes allegedly committed by veterans and their subsequent involvement with the criminal justice system.

“The Denver Adult Drug Court once again is in the forefront in addressing the critical needs of vulnerable segments of our society,” said Denver District Court Chief Judge Robert S. Hyatt. “Providing a specialized court experience for veterans is a logical extension of the many services already available in the Denver Adult Drug Court.”

The new arm of the Denver Adult Drug Court is the second court program in Colorado specifically designed to address the needs of military veterans. A Veteran Trauma Court in the Fourth Judicial District, which serves El Paso and Teller counties, has been operating for two years with a similar goal and program.

Other new services provided to veterans have also been organized this month. The Colorado Bar Association is sponsoring Veterans’ Legal Clinics, which begin in November. Additionally, a new website has been created to connect local veterans with the people who want to help them resolve their legal issues.

For more information on Veterans Track program and the Veterans Trauma Court, contact Laura Williams, Colorado Department of Human Services, Division of Behavioral Health, at (303) 866-7433 or laura.williams@state.co.us.

Click here to read the full press release about the veterans track from State Judicial.

Veterans’ Legal Clinics to Start in November; New Website for Legal Services in Denver

The Colorado Bar Association is beginning a statewide effort to establish free legal clinics for veterans. The first clinics will be held in Denver and Colorado Springs on Veteran’s Day, November 11, and Fort Collins on November 10. Lawyers who are interested in volunteering to staff the “legal advice” clinics are needed for those locations, as well as others to be established in the future.

Additionally, lawyers will be needed to assist in taking on pro bono cases for those veterans needing representation. If you are interested in helping our veterans, please contact Heather Clark at hclark@cobar.org.

Also, a new website has been created to connect local veterans with the people who want to help them resolve their legal issues. Veterans Legal Services of Denver was founded by combat veterans and University of Denver Sturm College of Law students Dustin Charapata and Sean Marsh.

Governor Hickenlooper Announces Multiple Board and Commission Appointments

At the end of last week, Governor John Hickenlooper announced his appointments to several boards and commissions: the Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs, the Colorado Coroners Standards and Training Board, the Developmental Disabilities Council, the Hospital Provider Fee Oversight and Advisory Board, the Read-to-Achieve Board, and the Real Estate Commission.

The Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs studies problems facing veterans and makes recommendations to the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the Division of Veterans’ Affairs concerning programs needed to assist veterans. These appointments are dependent upon Senate confirmation. The members appointed are:

  • Franklin DB Jackson, of Denver, to serve as a veteran who has been honorably released or separated from the armed forces of the United States; term to expire June 30, 2015.
  • Kathleen N. Dunemn, of Littleton, to serve as a veteran who has been honorably released or separated from the armed forces of the United States; term to expire June 30, 2015.

The Colorado Coroners Standards and Training Board develops a curriculum for a forty-hour training course for new coroners and approving the qualifications of the instructors who teach the course. The Board also approves training providers to certify coroners in basic medical-legal death investigation and approves training providers and programs used to fulfill the annual sixteen-hour in-serve training requirement. The members appointed are:

  • Amy Martin, of Denver, to serve as a coroner of a county with a population of 50,000 or more; term to expire March 1, 2012.
  • The Honorable Rodney J. Bockenfeld, of Centennial, to serve as a county commissioner of a county with a population of 50,000 or more; term to expire March 1, 2014.
  • The Honorable Debra Lynn Zwirn, of Iliff, to serve as a county commissioner of a county with a population of less than 50,000; term to expire March 1, 2014.
  • Mark D. Hurlbert, of Breckenridge, to serve as a district attorney from a judicial district in this state; term to expire March 1, 2014.

The Developmental Disabilities Council is responsible for coordinating services and advocating for persons with developmental disabilities. The members appointed are:

  • Thomas L. Miller Jr., of Highlands Ranch, to serve as a representative of a state agency that administers funds provided under Titles V and XIX; term to expire July 1, 2012.
  • The Honorable Irene Aguilar, of Denver, to serve as a representative of the Colorado State Senate; term to expire July 1, 2014.
  • Lisa M. Kramer, of Littleton, to serve as a parent/guardian of a child with developmental disabilities; term to expire July 1, 2014.
  • Edward George, of Denver, to serve as a person with developmental disabilities; term to expire July 1, 2014.
  • Christine T. Herron, of Centennial, to serve as a parent of a child with a developmental disability; term to expire July 1, 2014.
  • F. Mike Hoover, of Boulder, to serve as a person with a developmental disability; term to expire July 1, 2014.
  • Todd J. Coffee, of Denver, to serve as a representative of the state agency that administers funds provided under the federal “Older Americans Act of 1965″; term to expire July 1, 2014.
  • Scott LeRoy, of Boulder, to serve as a representative of the state agency that administers funds provided under the federal “Rehabilitation act of 1973;” term to expire July 1, 2014.
  • Stephanie Lynch, of Boulder, to serve as a person with a developmental disability; term to expire July 1, 2014.

The Hospital Provider Fee Oversight and Advisory Board is responsible for working with the Department of Healthcare Policy and Financing and the Medical Services Board to develop the hospital provider fee model, monitor implementation of the bill, help with preparation of this program, and ensure that the Medicaid and CHP+ eligibility expansions are implemented as intended. These appointments are dependent upon Senate Confirmation. The members appointed are:

  • Ann M. King, of Denver, to serve as a member of a statewide organization of hospitals; term to expire May 15, 2015.
  • Thomas A. Rennell, of Castle Rock, to serve as a member of a statewide organization of health insurance carriers; term to expire May 15, 2015.
  • William Patrick Heller, of Denver, to serve as an employee of the state department; term to expire May 1, 2015.

The Read-to-Achieve Board reviews applications for grants under the Read-to-Achieve grant program. Under this program, any school may apply for grants to fund intensive reading programs for second- and third-grade students whose literacy and reading comprehension skills are below grade level. These appointments are dependent upon Senate Confirmation. The members appointed are:

  • Joanne E. Scanlan, of Colorado Springs, to serve as a kindergarten, first-, second-, or third-grade elementary school teacher; term to expire April 1, 2014.
  • Teresa L. Williams, of Westminster, to serve as a member with knowledge of and experience in public education in elementary grades; term to expire on April 1, 2014.
  • Charlotte Macaluso, of Pueblo, to serve as a parent of a child who is enrolled in a public school at the time of appointment; term to expire on April 1, 2014.
  • Jamie Lyn Marin, of Strasburg, to serve as a rural kindergarten, first-, second-, or third-grade elementary school teacher representative of non-confinement cattle industry; term to expire April 1, 2014.

The Real Estate Commission regulates the licensing and conduct of real estate brokers and salespeople and pre-owned home warranty service companies. The member appointed is:

  • Christopher S. McElroy, of Fort Collins, to serve as a real estate broker; term to expire on April 12, 2014.

The full press release from the Governor’s office concerning these board and commission appointments can be found here.

Want to Attend the Upcoming VA Accreditation Program? Begin the Application Process Now

On December 2, 2010, CBA-CLE will offer a second round of VA Accreditation for those who were unable to attend the highly-acclaimed program at our Elder Law Retreat in Breckenridge. Registration for the program will be available soon, but we encourage you to begin the application process with the Department of Veterans Affairs now.

If you want to take this class you should file your paperwork by at least October 4, 2010, to allow extra time for processing over the holidays and ensure you receive your letter before the December 2nd class. Most applications are processed within 30-45 days. You can link to the Application for Accreditation as a Claims Agent or Attorney here.

The program will satisfy the 3 hours of continuing education credit required by the Veterans Administration for accredited attorneys.  Keep in mind that any attorney who wants to assist clients with a claim for Veterans Benefits must be accredited.

See 38 CFR §5901 et seq. for the rules relating to accreditation of attorneys. For additional information, visit the Veteran’s Administration FAQs on their website.

The program will take place December 2, 2010, from 9am – noon, at the Colorado Bar Association CLE classroom at 1900 Grant Street in Denver, and will also be available via live webcast. It will be taught by Valerie Peterson, Esq., Executive Director of Elder Counsel.

New PTSD Regulations Expedite Benefits to More Veterans

In July, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released new regulations on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) claims.

The changes arose, at least in part, due to the often seemingly-endless appeals processes for PTSD claims, which average 4.4 years according to Veteran Journal. The VA is also the subject of a class action lawsuit, which asserts that the extensive time to process claims, upwards of fifteen years in some cases, violates Veterans’ constitutional rights. With evidence that “nearly 3,000 soldiers die a year while waiting for their appeals to the VA for mental health benefits,” and with over 85,000 Veterans on a waiting list to claim mental health benefits (2009), it is unsurprising that President Obama hailed the new regulations:

I don’t think our troops on the battlefield should have to keep notes just in case they need to apply for a claim. And I’ve met enough veterans to know that you don’t have to engage in a firefight to endure the trauma of war. So, we’re changing the way things are done.

The new rule applies to Veterans of any era and to all new claims and appeals received on or after July 13, 2010, as well as all pending yet undecided claims and appeals filed before July 13, 2010.

The fundamental change in the rule, implemented to expedite decisions, is to allow for a Veteran to “establish the occurrence of an in-service stressor though his or her own testimony;” prior to the rule change, the VA was required to verify the stressor accounts through extensive record analysis, a “very involved an protracted process.”

The Veteran’s stressor testimony must be in conjunction with several other elements: 1) the Veteran must be diagnosed with PTSD, 2) a VA psychiatrist must confirm that the claimed stressor is adequate to support the diagnosis, 3) the Veteran’s symptoms are related to the claimed stressor, and 4) the claimed stressor is consistent with the “places types, and circumstances of the Veteran’s service and the record provides no clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.”

The new regulations also allow for PTSD claims to be processed where the Veteran’s stated stressor is not directly related to combat or POW service. The stressor need only be related to a “fear of hostile military or terrorist activity . . . consistent with the places, types, and circumstances of the Veteran’s service.” VA adjudicators determine whether or not the claimed stressor is consistent with the Veteran’s service.

The rule change will be especially beneficial to those Veterans “whose military records have been damaged or destroyed,” providing no definitive evidence of combat action that could result in PTSD, despite reasonable Veteran testimony to the contrary. Additionally, women Veterans, whose roles in the military “placed them at risk of hostile military or terrorist activity,” will see a great benefit from the rule change.

While the changes seemingly make it easier for claims to be processed, and therefore increase the risk of fraud, James Dwyer, chief of PTSD services for the VA of Greater Los Angeles, believes that gains to the system outweigh any such risk. Dwyer states that “every large system has to deal with” such concerns and “anyone who puts on the uniform, signs the papers, goes over, serves, should have the benefit of the doubt.” Additionally, as Veteran Journal contends, fraudulent claims are unlikely “due to the fact that a veteran must first be diagnosed with PTSD and if that veteran shows improvements their benefits can be cut back over time to reduce costs.”

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Resource: USDOJ Booklet Offers ADA Advice, Resources to Vets with Disabilities

If you are an attorney with injured U.S. military service members among your clients, you won’t want to miss passing this useful resource along.

For combat veterans returning home from the Afghanistan or Iraq theatre with a catastrophic impairment, surviving the injury itself is just the beginning of the trauma they will face as they adjust to a life forever altered. Catastrophic injuries affect not just body and mind, but relationships, major life activities, opportunities, and livelihoods as well.

As part of the federal government’s outreach efforts to support our nation’s service members, the U.S. Department of Justice has released ADA: Know Your Rights (.pdf), a 28-page e-booklet covering the civil rights of veterans under the Americans With Disabilities Act and the many resources, both inside and outside the government, providing services to injured vets and their families.

(image source: Wikimedia Commons)