Francis Jackson is a best selling author as well as attorney who specializes in disability law for those seeking veteran’s disability benefits and social security disability benefits. A founding partner of Jackson & MacNichol, Francis has been featured on NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX network affiliates around the country. In 2017 Mr. Jackson was inducted into America’s Most Trusted Lawyers for his outstanding work in disability law. For more information visit VeteransBenefits.com
Get answers to your questions about the VA-guaranteed home loan program by contacting a VA home loan representative at 1-877-827-3702
BERT MARTINEZ: Welcome back. So glad you’re here. 1st of all, thank you so much for helping us out. Our show is now available On Pandora, Spotify, obviously, Apple, all the major podcasting platforms.
I love spirited debate, and so some of the comments are in opposition of something they might have heard on the show, and I’m okay with that. Whether it’s good, bad, or ugly, long as it’s done, with the intent to, what do you call it? Debate And and not to, you know, be filled with hate speech, I’m all for your comments.
So thank you so much.
On the show today, veterans lawyer Francis Jackson. welcome back.
LAWYER FRANCIS JACKSON: Bert, it’s always nice to have the opportunity to chat with you
BERT MARTINEZ: Well, I’m excited. I was thinking quite a bit about Senator Tuberville having reluctantly decided to release the, some, or I guess a large portion of the military whole. That, he was using to try to blackmail the other senators to do what he wanted. So I was thinking about you, and I was excited to see that he at least is helping out a little bit.
LAWYER FRANCIS JACKSON: Yeah. It’s nice to see some progress there. I mean, a lot of military folks were getting mistreated by that.
BERT MARTINEZ: Absolutely. And, anyway, I’m glad that he is so reluctant, but I’m glad that he is, at least moving forward.
And I’m glad to have you on the show because I also wanted to talk about, for VA foreclosing on veterans who had elected a reduced payment during COVID, we had recently talked about this in the past, and I wanted to see what, what the update was.
LAWYER FRANCIS JACKSON: Sure, Bert. Well, just to remind the folks who are listening, What had happened was that, during COVID, VA worked with its, when the the companies, the banks that hold various VA backed mortgages and had allowed folks to defer payments during COVID because, as you know, there were lots of folks who were out of work or otherwise financially stressed by COVID.
And so the arrangement was that they could defer these payments to the end of their loan. But what happened was that, after VA stopped that program, a number of the banks that held the loans did not defer the amounts to the end of the mortgage.
Instead, they said, okay. You have failed to pay for the last 6, 12, 24 months, and you now owe that money and please send it or we’re going to foreclose. And so what happened was that approximately 6,000 veterans were put into foreclosure.
And another 34,000 were racked up and were marked up as delinquent by these various banks. So, a number of Democratic senators, when they heard about this, led by Jon Tester, who’s the senior, Democratic senator on the veterans committee in the senate got in touch with the VA and said, you know, this really isn’t right, and you need to fix it.
So what the VA has done Is they have now reinstated the COVID modification program, and they have asked all of the lenders to suspend any foreclosures from now through May 31st, of 2024.
And what they’re going to do is they’re going to, go through their new program called the VA Servicing Purchasing Program, VASP, And they’re going to buy those loans from the lenders and hold them as a direct loan portfolio, handled by VA directly.
So the effect will be to stop the foreclosures and for the folks who are in default to, to get them out of default. So this is a huge Christmas present for a lot of veterans who were facing financial problems that they never anticipated when they got into the COVID modification program. So, it’s a really good thing that the VA is doing. I think it’s one of the nicest things that I’ve seen them do in a long time.
And, you know, my hats off to secretary McDonough for doing the right thing on this.
BERT MARTINEZ: Absolutely. This is a Fantastic, holiday gift. I’m glad that they acted so quickly. When you brought this situation to light, I was fearing the worst because, as you know, banks don’t act very quickly, generally speaking.
And even slower than a bank is our government. And so the fact that our government stepped in and got the banks to act so quickly is, in my opinion, a holiday miracle. It’s a Christmas miracle or Hanukkah miracle or whatever miracle you wanna add to it, but either way, It’s a miracle. That’s fantastic.
LAWYER FRANCIS JACKSON: I think this is a really good thing. I was really pleased to see that the VA could do it. And, Bert, if it’s alright with you, I’d like to share with our listeners the phone number that Any veteran who is facing a foreclosure out of this situation can call to make sure that his or her loan Gets taken care of. Would that be alright? Okay. That number is 877 8273702.
BERT MARTINEZ: Let me read this back. 877-827-3702. And so somebody, a veteran that is experiencing a foreclosure, can call 877-827-3702, and Theoretically, put their foreclosure on hold.
LAWYER FRANCIS JACKSON: That’s correct. Those folks will help.
BERT MARTINEZ: Man, that is fantastic. Again, for everybody listening, let’s share this, let’s share this message for sure. The number again, and I’m gonna put in the show notes, it’s 877-827 3702. So that’s fantastic. I think that is just a great way to end the year strong for our veterans.
Thank you so much, to anybody who helped make that happen, secretary McDonough, as well as the banks, thank you for doing that.
What’s happening? With the PACT Act legislation, I understand that it’s brought a lot of attention to the issues of our veterans who were exposed to carcinogens. What’s the latest there?
LAWYER FRANCIS JACKSON: Well, I don’t have any real update on the PACT Act, but what has happened is all of the services have been looking at these, various kinds of, chemical and other exposures and the air force in particular, has found some preliminary findings that are concerning and that they’re going to look into further. At Cannon Air Force Base, they found a cluster of cases of rare brain cancer, which is very concerning.
And so, they’re going to be, trying to determine what that’s all about. But on a larger scale, the folks who were the operators at the nuclear missile sites around the country at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, and the FE Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.
The folks who performed the missile launch, availability, if you will, services, the missile ears, all have, developed a very, high percentage of non Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer, and an unusually high percentage among this group of folks.
So, the air force is looking into that and trying to figure out what’s going on there. They’ve gone back and done, you know, water samples and soil samples and air samples, air quality samples at all those sites, and they haven’t found anything in those. Although, what they have found is the, The so called PFAS chemicals, the the so called forever chemicals.
There seems to be a, they haven’t figured out, obviously, what’s going on, but what they have figured out is that there is an abnormally high rate of this non Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer among folks who served in that role over the years, so the school of aerospace medicine folks at the air force are working to try to figure out what it is that’s going on, and they’re expanding their review of medical records to try to track down as many folks who served in that miscellaneous role as they can in in order to get a better handle on what’s going on.
The other area that has come up is that a number of Air Force pilots who flew certain types of aircraft have developed a bunch of cancers. The folks that flew the Navy’s Hawkeye Raider plane radar plane, in particular, have developed a lot of cancer.
And this it’s unclear whether it’s clear whether there’s something about the radar system in those planes or something else about the planes that is causing that. But, again, it’s an issue that the air force is trying hard to look into. And, you know the whole point really that I wanted to make with all this is that, when the PACT Act and the surrounding inquiries into various exposures, all of the, services are now paying much more attention to this issue of chemical and carcinogen and radiation exposure, than they ever were before, and that is really what has brought these problems to light.
It is to be hoped that, this inquiry will lead to both, possibilities for treatment for those folks, and obviously, benefits for folks for whom treatment doesn’t fully remediate the conditions. So it’s not directly related to the pack deck, but it is, I think, a reflection of what I think of is a real sea change within the, the various services to recognize that putting folks in harm’s way in terms of exposure to everything from fumes from the burn pits in the Middle East to radiation exposure from these various assignments in the air force is, something that the services are responsible for and should be paying attention to, and I’m hopeful it will ultimately lead to an appropriate kind of grant of of medical attention or, service connection or both for all of these folks?
BERT MARTINEZ: Yeah. I’m always amazed. There seems to be a pattern, unfortunately, with our military, and I don’t think there’s evil intent. I don’t believe any of our military leaders would put anybody in harm’s way.
I think that when you’re dealing with this massive body that is known as the department of defense, not only very large, but but very bureaucratic, and a lot of things fall through the crack, and I believe that this is very common among any large corporation, that sometimes the left does not know what the right is doing or vice versa. So, Hopefully, they will focus on this and move quickly or quicker.
LAWYER FRANCIS JACKSON: I’m hopeful on that, Bert, I think you hit the nail on the head. I think, when you have these large organizations trying to accomplish various goals, and particularly, in war type settings, they’re not focused necessarily on the potential side effects.
And I’m happy to see that it seems like, all of the services within the Department of Defense are now starting to pay more attention to those issues and think about how they can take better care of their people or at least treat the people for whom it is too late to take preventive care. So, I think it may just be a new day dawning on that issue, and it’s that’s a good thing.
BERT MARTINEZ: Yeah. Absolutely. Let’s talk about the research that the VA has been doing on PTSD, what are the developments there on that on those issues.
LAWYER FRANCIS JACKSON: Well, that’s actually very interesting, Bert. Or at least for a veteran benefits nerd like me. But, what’s going on is, the VA keeps looking at PTSD because it’s such a problem within the veteran community.
And there’s a recent study of what they did. They examined people under MRI so that you could see various kinds of brain activity, and they would get folks to think about, talk about, and focus on various things. But what they found was that folks with PTSD, when they got them to focus on the underlying events that caused the PTSD, Instead of finding those in the part of the brain where they expect to find memory, it’s an area of the brain called the hippocampus for those who are interested.
But, instead of finding the brain activity there, when they talked about these PTSD events or thought about them or focused on them, there’s a different part of the brain that lit up. Again, for those who are nerds about this thing like I am, it’s called the posterior cingulate cortex. It’s part of the cortex, obviously.
But the important part is that the PTSD recollections or reliving by the patients triggered a different part of the brain than normal memory. And so that may ultimately lead to some real discoveries about how to better treat PTSD because it is clear that these experiences that people have had that have triggered PTSD affect them in a way that goes beyond normal memories of bad or unpleasant events.
And somehow, it triggers a different section of the brain to deal with these issues. So that may ultimately allow the researchers to figure out better ways to treat it because what seems to be happening is that If people have traumatic enough memories that it triggers PTSD, that essentially they are reliving those as opposed to remembering them.
And the brain is treating those things in an entirely different way, which is why it causes these changes in behavior and activity and function that we call PTSD. So it may turn out to be a really big deal. You just never know with this kind of research where it will ultimately lead, whether it’s going to lead to something that’s huge or whether it’s going to be a kind of a flash in the pan. But, I’m always hopeful when I see these new developments in PTSD that folks will ultimately be able to translate that into better treatment.
BERT MARTINEZ: Yes. Absolutely and I’m grateful again because it took a long time for our Veterans Administration to acknowledge PTSD and to acknowledge these mental, Issues, mental illnesses and stuff like that. And we know, or at least we know now, that our brain is a very complex system, and the reality is, and PTSD is a great example of this.
That our brain cannot tell the difference between something that is being relieved or reimagined versus reality. If anybody’s had a nightmarish dream where it felt real and it woke you up, and you were breathing hard and maybe even sweating, that’s what a lot of our PTSD, Veterans live with, but they’re awake. Something a sound or a smell triggers their PTSD, and all of a sudden, they’re thrown back into whatever nightmare created that PTSD. So I’m glad that they are focusing on this and are starting to make headway into understanding what’s happening.
LAWYER FRANCIS JACKSON: It does seem promising, Bert. As I said, you never know whether it’ll lead to a big breakthrough or just be a flash in the pan, but I am very hopeful that it will lead to a breakthrough. I think one of the things that The VA has done well, I think. Lord knows they’ve done some things that haven’t gone well. But But, one of the things that they have done well is they have really developed some truly specialized Research and treatment for PTSD, in in ways that most other Mental health specialty facilities have not, and I I am pleased to see that they’re continuing to do that and that It looks like, they they may have the potential for a home run here.
BERT MARTINEZ: Absolutely. Hey. Let’s talk about this. I know that homeless veterans continue to be an issue. We’ve discussed this multiple times. You and I have actually attended an event with Randy Couture, who’s also quite involved with homeless Vets. What’s going on with this? What’s the progress on the problem?
LAWYER FRANCIS JACKSON: Well, there are a couple of different things Bert, 1 is more research. And what they’ve found is that about 45% of women veterans who are homeless, just women, not the entire group of homeless, have suffered from military sexual trauma specifically documented in their records.
And, typically, that’s associated with PTSD as you know. But, one of the things that they’re looking at is whether that is a factor in continuing or recurrent homelessness for those women. And it appears that it is. And if in fact that is the case, then it may be possible to get ahead of this problem by looking at female veterans who have a history of Military sexual trauma and flagging them, if you will, for support in terms of housing programs like the VASH, housing vouchers, and so on. It’s another step so that piece of information is, you know, one more thing that helps on the larger, homelessness issue.
I’m sad to say that there’s some disappointing news. The VA, as you may remember, In an effort to get ahead of, homelessness in the Los Angeles area where there’s a very high portion of homeless veterans, started building some mini dormitory arrangements a couple years ago, and that was supposed to be a short term solution.
These are living quarters that don’t have plumbing, you know, no water, no toilet facilities. You have to Literally go outside to a different facility, for bathing or toilet and so on. But, you know, the VA in 2011 settled a big lawsuit in LA that involved about 1200 veterans who were homeless. And the VA settlement was that they would take the necessary steps to build facilities and arrange facilities to house all of these homeless veterans on this very large, I think it’s like 300 plus acres facility that the VA has in West LA by this year, 2023. Unfortunately, they haven’t met that commitment. They were going to build 770 housing units by 2022. In fact, it’s now 2023, and they only have 233 of those 270.
So a new lawsuit has been filed to require the VA to step up and comply with the original settlement and to build those housing units. But the other piece of the issue that came to light with that is that the VA has done this strange thing where they’re working with the housing and urban development folks.
And those folks have financial cutoffs for eligibility for these housing units. So it turns out that what happens is If you are a disabled veteran and you’re getting both, a high level of VA benefits and Social Security disability, your income is too high to be placed in the housing unit set aside for disabled veterans, which is about as much of a catch 22 as I think you can describe. So, They’re trying to sort that out.
And, as I said, a lawsuit was filed there in LA. And hopefully, That, will ultimately result in, sorting out, both local housing and in the larger issue for disability, but we’ll see.
BERT MARTINEZ: Absolutely. This kinda brings up a thought that I have. And sometimes, the media and or political opponents like to malign lawyers. And this to me is a clear example of how a law firm or a lawyer is able to hold the government accountable. When you look at some of the most significant changes in the law, civil law, privacy law, you name it. It’s because a lawyer or a team of lawyers held the government or some large corporation accountable, And by doing so, protected what was before an unprotected class of individuals.
And so this to me is a great example of lawyering at its best because you are holding governments liable or accountable, I should say, to try to correct and protect the situation?
LAWYER FRANCIS JACKSON: That’s right, Bert. And I have to say that, there are several big law firms around the country who really stepped up and provided pro bono services. Morrison and Foster in San Francisco, for example, took on pro bono the whole issue of getting people identified and eligible for treatment for the folks who were exposed to various chemical experiments by the government back in the seventies.
And, it really single handedly won that case and did a fantastic job. So I think you’re right that there have been real opportunities where lawyers have been able to help not only in the veterans arena like that example, but in other areas as well. But It’s, it’s nice to see, and I think it helps people to understand that even though lawyers are not necessarily held in high regard as a group, that there certainly are lawyers who have done fine things for our communities and should be looked up to.
BERT MARTINEZ: And speaking of lawyers, and things, and the veterans, how can lawyers help with some of these problems you talked about? I mean, we’re you know, not just the homelessness, but, the PTSD and The PACT act and we already talked about the foreclosure and we have the bad water at Camp Lejeune. So how can lawyers help with these problems that are facing our veterans?
LAWYER FRANCIS JACKSON: You know, I think there are lots of opportunities for lawyers to help, Bert. And we’ve talked about some of the things that have been done and continue to be done.
For example, the law students in the Veterans Benefits Clinic at the Yale University School of Law in Connecticut have brought a lawsuit helping veterans to get their discharges upgraded In situations where the Veteran was discharged from the service as a result of actions that were caused by mental health problems.
And I think that’s going to be a big big thing in terms of helping a lot of veterans. But, in terms of your overall question, I think there are 2 basic ways that lawyers can help. 1 is these individual situations like we were just talking about, a particular lawsuit to try to remedy a particular problem. More generically, I think that many veterans need help with the veterans benefits process, particularly for getting disability pension or disability compensation with the VA.
And lots of those folks have had difficulty doing it on their own, and I think that firms like ours and others around the country that handle these veterans benefits cases can be of great assistance to veterans who are struggling to solve those problems, get those benefits on their own.
And, I think that’s another way that lawyers can contribute.
BERT MARTINEZ: Yeah. Absolutely. And I also wanna point this out. The people listening to the show today can also contribute.
You can share this show with everyone you know, if you know of a family and maybe, you know that they have veterans or maybe they’re Oh, they’re currently active duty, so, share this episode anyway with them.
A lot of our veterans tend to, Suffer in silence, but again, it’s something that you can do that costs you no money, that helps out, is just to let them know about veterans benefits.com. The work that Francis and his team do is extremely valuable. They care deeply about our Veterans.
And it’s not fair. It’s not right for our veterans to fight for us, and then they have to come home and fight for the benefits that they were promised. So let’s share this episode with everyone. You know, even if maybe they don’t need veterans benefits.com today, and hopefully, they’ll never need them. But if they might need some help, they have questions about benefits, let them know about veteransbenefits.com. Also, as we talked about today, they might be struggling with foreclosure, which they’re not gonna tell anybody about.
But if you know of a veteran’s family, just let them know about how they can, You know, get some help, and that number again is 877-827-3702. I’m gonna put it here, or it’s already here in the show notes.
Francis Jackson, I wanna thank you so much for helping out our veterans and the great work that you guys do. And, you know, Happy holidays to you and your family. Looking forward to having you back soon.
LAWYER FRANCIS JACKSON: Sounds good to me, Bert. Happy holidays to you as well and to all our listeners.
BERT MARTINEZ: Alrighty. Good stuff there from veteran’s attorney or veteran’s lawyer, Francis Jackson.
And, again, you can find out more about him and his team at veteransbenefits.com.
The work that they do is literally priceless. Some of the clients that they’ve worked with have taken over a decade to get the benefits for these brave men and women.
So again, Let’s share this episode with everyone you know. Let’s help out. As always, my friends, thank you for being here.
And again, to somebody, a veteran that is experiencing a foreclosure, can call 877-827-3702.
And remember, You were created to Succeed!.