News and Client Reviews
CLSMF helps Vietnam vet get benefits
Saturday, December 1, 2012
Three tours of duty as an Army infantry intelligence specialist in Vietnam 40 years ago left Larry Hunt injured mentally and physically. While the 69-year-old Daytona Beach-area resident received 70 percent disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs since getting out of the Army in 1974, Hunt said he was turned down when he applied for full disability six years ago . “I don’t know why,” Hunt said.
In 2010, Christie Bhageloe, attorney for the Daytona Beach-based Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida’s Veterans Advocacy project, stepped in. “(Hunt) appealed twice and was turned down,” she said. Bhageloe said the VA’s appeals process is long and drawn out. For Hunt, it required him to repeat and relive the traumatic events of his military service. “He got so upset about having to go to another hearing and repeat everything in front of a stranger, we had to cancel (one of his appeal hearings),” she said.
“I was injured several times in Vietnam,” said Hunt, who performed reconnaissance missions during his time in country in 1968, 1969 and 1970. He said his injuries included a broken back. “That caused a lot of pain.” Hunt said. In addition, he was ultimately diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and was unable to work. “I was not able to trust anyone,” Hunt said.
Bhageloe said to ease the appeals examination process, she put together a package of information that included Hunt’s case summary and medical records. “It gave him something to hold on to,” she said. While she doesn’t credit that summary with the ultimate success of Hunt’s appeal, Bhageloe did say it prompted one doctor to take a second look at his PTSD. In September, Hunt’s appeal was granted and he began receiving full disability benefits.
Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida is a nonprofit law firm covering 12 Central Florida counties and providing civil legal services to low-income residents. “We are basically legal aid,” said Larry Glinzman, CLSMF’s director of communications. “That includes anyone who cannot afford an attorney. He said the Veterans Advocacy Project began in late 2009 after the agency began seeing a growing number of low-income veterans seeking services. “They were being turned down for medical benefits and were having disability issues,” Glinzman said. “We see World War II, Korean War and Vietnam veterans, as well as an influx from Iraq and Afghanistan. (The veterans it serves) range from 90 down to 19 (years of age).”
Appeals can take years, Bhageloe said. “It is very hard to go through it by yourself,” she said. “It is not something where you can go before a judge and get it resolved.” The veterans project was originally funded through grants, which Bhageloe said have since run out, but the effort has continued to operate because of the positive results it has shown.
“Community Legal Services was a big help to me,” Hunt said.
LACK OF LEGAL AID LEAVES POOR IN DIRE STRAITS
OUR VIEW EDITORIAL - DAYTONA BEACH NEWS JOURNAL
Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 5:30 a.m.
Funding for legal assistance for the poor and financially troubled has hit rock-bottom all across Florida. In April, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed about $2 million in state funding for legal assistance centers. It was money that would have helped fund a lot of attorney hours for the poor. It was a relatively small budget item that could have had a significant impact on legal services for people who can’t afford to hire a lawyer. Scott should rethink the state contribution to legal aid centers, either through next year’s budget recommendations or as a request to a legislative commission with the authority to make mid-year budget changes. The poor are dealing with foreclosures, family support issues and cases related to domestic violence. They need qualified legal representation.
Without proper legal aid, the poor and financially troubled clog the civil court system. Often, Floridians overwhelmed by civil legal issues just let themselves get washed deeper into debt and legal trouble. It’s understandable how Florida finds itself in this situation. A variety of economic factors have conspired to yank funding from legal assistance centers while vexing the state budget as a whole. Before the recession, only one in five Floridians who sought legal aid at places such as Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida qualified, according to Jane Curran, executive director of The Florida Bar Foundation, which helps fund no-cost legal services for the poor.
The Florida Bar Foundation was able to fund legal assistance for civil matters through interest on money that lawyers held in trust accounts. But interest rates have hit the floor, and taken with them revenues for legal aid. Curran said the foundation raised $44 million in 2007. For the fiscal year ending June 30, only $5.58 million was raised. That is a crippling blow. There are only 410 legal aid lawyers in Florida. Dozens have been laid off because of dwindling revenue and cuts in funding. With Scott’s veto, legal aid centers had to cut deeper.
Here in Volusia and Flagler counties, Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida has a budget of about $8 million for 12 counties, including Orange and Seminole counties. Scott’s veto of Florida’s contribution to legal assistance meant layoffs, according to Larry Glinzman of Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida. The state needs to kick in, or else face associated costs from Floridians clogging the courts with new legal issues.
More contributions for institutions such as Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida are certainly to be encouraged. Anyone or any business can donate to help civil representation of the poor. Lawyers can also work pro bono — or for free — for the centers. That should be encouraged. Tallahassee can extend perhaps the biggest helping hand in the short term.
There isn’t much Scott and the Legislature can do about restoring interest rates, but they can provide some help for people caught up in the court system. A relatively small state contribution can go a long way in helping vulnerable citizens.
Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida Named to Top 50 Best Non Profit Companies To Work For in America and to Top 30 Best Companies Overall in Florida
Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida (CLSMF) was just named one of America’s Best Non profits To Work For. CLSMF was ranked the 18th firm in the nation and 9th among medium size firms.
Fifty companies were recognized in small, medium and large company categories. The rankings – the third annual statewide Best Companies list – appear in the April issue of The Non Profit Times.
“We see a high level of engagement from employees of non profits compared to other industries,” says Susan Springer, director of workplace assignments for Best Companies Group. “They are very dedicated to the mission, helping people, making a difference, whether locally, nationally or internationally. There’s something intrinsically satisfying about it.”
CLSMF underwent a two-part survey process. The first part consisted of evaluating workplace policies, practices, philosophy, systems and demographics. The second part consisted of an employee survey to measure employee satisfaction. The combined scores determined the top companies and the final ranking. Best Companies Group managed the overall registration, survey and analysis process and determined the final rankings.
“One strong theme in this month’s Best Companies coverage is how companies keep good employees. We highlight companies that take sophisticated, enlightened approaches to training, communicate the company’s values clearly, and listen to employees as they try to improve the workplace and make the company more productive.” says Mark Howard, executive editor.
CLSMF is a nonprofit law firm serving twelve Florida counties. Our mission is to provide access to justice through high quality legal assistance to low-income people. Since 1966, dedicated CLSMF attorneys, paralegals, legal assistants, and advocates have worked diligently to solve civil legal problems that impact the day to day lives of Mid-Florida residents who cannot afford private attorney fees.
The NonProfit Times, the flagship publication of NPT Publishing Group in Morris Plains, N.J., is the leading business publication for nonprofit management. Geared to the executive suite, The NonProfit Times delivers news, business information and original research on the daily operations of tax-exempt organizations. The NonProfit Times was launched in April 1987 and quickly became the go-to publications for news, business columns and original research
Best Companies Group works with national and local partners around the country and in Canada to establish and manage “Best Places to Work,” “Best Companies,” and “Best Employers” programs on a national, statewide and regional basis. Through its thorough workplace assessment, utilizing employer questionnaires and employee-satisfaction surveys, BCG identifies and recognizes companies that have been successful in creating and maintaining workplace excellence.
Veteran wins big with Christie Bhageloe’s assistance
Veterans’ Project Attorney Christie Bhageloe received a special thank you card from a client recently. She had represented a 100% service-connected disabled veteran who had been informed by the Veterans Administration that he owed them $285,000 for an overpayment. After Christie was able to get the entire overpayment waived and as she put it, “the client is now a very happy camper!”