The Trump Administration is set to waive an ethics law that protects veterans from predatory for-profit colleges. The VA recently announced it intends to provide a blanket waiver of a law Congress passed to prevent corruption in programs that provide education benefits for veterans. The Trump Administration has also shown its intention to rollback a number of regulations imposed during the Obama Administration. In June, for example, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said that she was delaying implementation of rules intended to erase the federal student debt of borrowers who had been defrauded by their colleges. State attorney generals in 19 states then sued her over this decision. The law in question prohibits anyone working in the department of state approving agencies that administer federal benefits by the GI bill from owning any interest in a for-profit educational institution and from accepting any gifts, wages or anything else from private, for-profit schools. If the deregulation goes forward, Department employees and state accreditors will be able to own stock in or be employed by the very institutions that Department and state approving agencies are charged with regulating.
Certain groups of veterans suffer high rates of hunger, including veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking matters into its hands and will begin screening all vets who visit VA health care facilities for hunger. They will do this by asking whether they have struggled to afford food in the past three months. Multiple studies show that veterans’ rates of hunger and poverty are lower than those in the general population, so the problem has largely gone unnoticed. It is estimated, however, that 39,000 veterans were homeless in 2016, which makes access to food extremely difficult. Veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars suffer from food insecurity at more than double the national rate, according to a 2015 paper published by the journal Public Health Nutrition. Experts also hope that this screening process will address other diet-related health issues like depression and diabetes, since studies have shown that the hungry also tend to have problems in these areas.
Workers who are employed at physically demanding jobs set off each day with confidence the safety factors put in place to protect them on the work-site will prevent any accidents. But you can’t plan for everything, as Paul, a long-time truck driver found out. In June of 2013, Paul stepped out of his truck, caught his foot in the step, and fell five feet to the ground. Paul suffered extensive injuries from his fall, including his shoulders, both knees, his right hip, cervical spine and left elbow. “In February 2014, he had neck surgery, then later in 2014 and 2015 Paul had surgery on both knees to repair torn ligaments,” said Jeffrey Freedman, managing attorney, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC. “A year ago this past February surgeons operated on his elbow and wrist, which left him with a painful nerve condition called RSD. When he developed the RSD the doctors elected not to do other surgeries they had planned because they felt it would worsen the condition.” Ultimately, Paul could no longer work, however, the Workers Compensation insurer was resisting paying fair compensation for the extent of his pain and lost income. After litigation for the permanent damages Paul had suffered,… Continue Reading Over $370K Obtained for Client Injured at Work
Are you a veteran who has been thinking about appealing either a disability denial or rating decision but are holding off because you’ve heard the typical wait time for decisions on appeals is five years? Well, there is some good news. Congress recently passed theVeteran Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017, an act created to reduce the wait times for veterans appealing disability claims. Currently, there are 400,000 former GIs waiting for final decisions on disability denials or their rating status. Congress wants the Veterans Administration (VA) to reduce that backlog and shorten the five-year process to 12 months. “Unfortunately it will take the VA about 18 months to gear up and adapt the current system to the new requirements. If you are already in the backlog, the new act is probably not going to help you,” said Jeffrey Freedman, managing attorney, Jeffrey Freedman, PLLC. “But for anyone who is considering an appeal, there is definitely a brighter future.” As the VA attempts to work through pending and backlogged claims more quickly, the number of appeals is expected to increase. About 12 percent of benefits decisions are appealed, according to the VA. With the new legislation veterans will have… Continue Reading Veterans Appeals Act will shorten the appeals process
Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC, recently negotiated a settlement of $750,000 for a 29-year-old client who slipped and fell at a Denny’s restaurant. The client had overcome a below-the-knee amputation, was working full-time, and living his life to the fullest. Then, he slipped and fell at this restaurant where employees had wet-mopped the floor and failed to put up signs or warnings. Brian D. Knauth, the lead attorney in our personal injury department, met with the client shortly after the incident, counseled him, and was retained to prosecute the claim against the restaurant. Knauth was able to finalize a settlement shortly after the client completed his medical treatment. “The injury happened two years ago and the client was in treatment for a year and a half. Immediately following the accident, we forced the defendant and insurance company to admit fault. We had secured video footage so there was solid evidence of the cause of the accident,” said Knauth, who has been working in the area of personal injury law for more than 20 years. “The client’s life was significantly changed by this incident. He had two surgeries, plus rehab and therapy. He will live with pain and limitations for the rest… Continue Reading Freedman firm obtains $750K for client’s slip and fall injury
The United States Office of Special Counsel received almost 2,000 complaints about VA care in 2016. Carolyn Lerner, Special Counsel, requested an extra $2.4 million in the 2018 budget to handle the complaints, since the OSC anticipates receiving more cases in fiscal year 2017. VA Secretary David Shulkin and President Trump have encouraged more VA whistle-blowers to come forward to address VA employees’ concerns without fear of retaliation. Curtis Cashour, Secretary Shulkin’s spokesman, stated: “Our goal is to rebuild trust among employees and supervisors so that problems can be solved at the lowest level possible.” United States Representative for New Hampshire, Ann Kuster explained: “We know that far too many veterans face unacceptable hurdles when accessing VA care, and whistle-blowers play an important role in identifying areas where change is needed.” Whistle-blowers from Maine, Rhode Island, Utah, Texas, North Carolina, and South Carolina have come forward to report mismanagement and poor care that threatens the health of veterans at other VA facilities. Mr. Cashour said that if any whistle-blowers feel they have been victims of retaliation, they should contact the new Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection.
Federal law establishes the floor for anti-discrimination laws, but many states and cities have more protective language for employees. Federal laws protect against discrimination on the basis of age, disability, national origin, color, religion, and sex. Many states have added to this list of protected categories. California, for example, protects workers from discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and marital status, categories that federal law does not. Additionally, most federal anti-discrimination laws are not triggered unless the employer has at least 15 or 20 employees. Other states do not have any protections for certain categories, like Alabama, which does not have a statute to protect against race discrimination. Multistate employers should establish the best policy for their organization as a whole, which may mean a more-employee friendly policy than that offered in some states. Employers should set an example that makes all employees feel protected and valued.
Alexis Berger was recently awarded $40 million by an arbitrator in a gender discrimination case against her employer, Kargo, a mobile advertising firm. Kargo has sued in federal court to reduce the damages to $3 million. If the settlement is upheld, it will be among the highest sexual harassment/discrimination verdicts and settlements. Ms. Berger filed her EEOC charge of discrimination in the spring of 2016 and was fired that July. Her allegations include the fact that Kargo tolerated misbehavior by her male colleagues but disciplined Ms. Berger for similar behavior and ignored inappropriate comments about Ms. Berger’s sexuality. Kargo claims it fired Ms. Berger because of complaints about her managerial style and the fact that she made inappropriate comments herself. The arbitrator stated that overwhelming evidence showed that Kargo allowed sexual discrimination to be a motivating factor in the decision to fire Ms. Berger and that the termination was “a collaborate orchestration carried out in a malicious, insidious, and humiliating manner.”
The United States is investigating lenders who are allegedly pressuring veterans into mortgage refinances they don’t need. Ginnie May, a government-owned corporation that exists to make mortgages more affordable, is conducting the probe. Ginnie Mae guarantees repayment on $2 trillion in mortgage bonds, even if borrowers default on their loans. Ginnie Mae is concerned that some lenders are improperly pushing veterans to refinance loans that have been wrapped into Ginnie Mae securities. Lenders are encouraging consumers to refinance loans continually during a short period of time, a practice known as churning, which generates higher fees for lenders and may leave veterans with larger loan balances. Ginnie Mae and the Department of Veterans Affairs has created a task force to address churning and other abusive practices by lenders. The agencies could decide to ban lenders from Ginnie Mae programs or impose restrictions on refinances. Banks that make loans through Veterans Affairs offer terms that are not available to most borrowers, which include no requirement for down payments and adding closing costs to loan balances so that veterans do not have to pay them at the time of sale. But these lenders do not have an obligation to ensure… Continue Reading Veterans’ Mortgage Refinances