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Finkelstein & Partners Offers Veterans Legal Options

Finkelstein & Partners is proud of its commitment to aiding Veterans in pursuit of their well-deserved benefits. An article, recently published in the Times Herald Record, discusses this: The Department of Veterans Affairs is meant to serve veterans, but when it comes to the disability process, the bureaucracy is notoriously ponderous. Until June 2007, veterans who have been denied disability couldn’t even have a lawyer represent them in the appeals process until they reached the upper echelons — the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. “They were making mistakes. They weren’t getting documents they needed. They weren’t getting records they needed,” said Nancy Morgan, a partner at Newburgh-based law firm Finkelstein & Partners and a managing partner in the firm’s Veterans Services Group. The 2007 change in law means veterans are now entitled to a lawyer from the start of the appeal, at the regional level. Lawyers, as it turns out, are eager to pitch in to help veterans get their due. Finkelstein & Partners is a firm with quite a few veterans in its ranks. Morgan’s husband career was in the Army, and they’d been stationed for years at West Point. Besides being an accomplished practicing lawyer, she’d also spent 24 years as an Army wife. The firm also saw this as a way to give back, said managing partner Andrew Finkelstein. “It’s just an opportunity to help the men and women who have dedicated so much to this country. They fight for our ability to do what we do,” he said. “Unfortunately, sometimes our government makes it a challenge for our service men and women to get what they’re entitled to.” Finkelstein & Partners appointed Morgan and partner John Dowd as managing partners of the Veterans Services Group and assigned two paralegals to the enterprise. They spent six months training, attending seminars to learn the ins and outs of the VA system. By 2009, the Veterans Services Group went into full swing. So far they’ve represented more than 400 veterans in disability appeals, and investigated about 3,000 claims, Finkelstein said. In recent months, the Veterans Services Group has helped win two significant legal battles for veterans, expanding their rights and empowering them. The first decision — a unanimous 8-0 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court — involved a veteran with psychiatric disabilities who had been unable to file his appeal for disability because of those psychiatric issues — a classic Catch-22. The VA system and the federal appeals courts had said, essentially, that a deadline is a deadline. The Veterans Service Group filed papers, known as an amicus curiae brief, saying veterans shouldn’t be disqualified from receiving disability status for missing deadlines because of that disability. “It was such an injustice,” Finkelstein said. “An example of the government strictly construing a rule, without looking at the effect of that “» You should have the flexibility to do the right thing.” The veteran’s side prevailed. The second case, decided in the Court of Appeals of Veterans Claims, involved the rights of veterans to choose someone to represent them in their financial and legal affairs, known as a fiduciary. The VA’s policy was to assign a fiduciary. Peter Jankowski, the new managing partner of the Veterans Services Group and until recently an appeals official in the VA’s Newark Regional Office, said the policy existed because veterans who are unable to handle their own affairs often have no family. But in this case, the veteran had a sister he wanted as fiduciary. The Supreme Court’s late April ruling on the case won that right for him — and other veterans. “The goal of the VA is to grant when you can and to deny if you must,” said Jankowski. a Vietnam veteran. “The laws are complex, the rules are complex, and they’re not always going to make the correct decision.”