Veterans Lawyer Francis Jackson : Veteran’s PACT Act Updates and more

Francis Jackson is an 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. Francis was honored by the National Academy of Best Selling Authors with a “Quilly” award as a joint author to the best-selling book, “Protect and Defend” where he wrote about protecting one’s rights to veterans disability compensation. In 2017 Mr. Jackson was inducted into America’s Most Trusted Lawyers for his outstanding work in disability law.  For more information visit

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Bert Martinez: Welcome back, everybody. Good to have you here as we’re winding down the year just a few weeks left, really. I don’t know. Last couple of weeks of the year almost don’t count. Everybody’s taking time off, holidays, and stuff like that, so we really have maybe, like, a month left of this year as far as work goes, but that’s okay. Hopefully, everybody’s gonna be able to spend time with their family, enjoy the upcoming holidays, the Thanksgiving holidays, and hopefully, you have a lot to be grateful for. 

Speaking of being grateful, on the show today, Veterans lawyer Francis Jackson. 

Francis Jackson is an attorney who specializes in disability law for those seeking veterans disability benefits as well as 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, Francis is honored by the National Academy of Bestselling Authors with a Quilly award, as a joint author to the best selling book Protect and Defend, where he wrote about protecting one’s rights to veterans disability compensation. In 2017, Mister Jackson was inducted into America’s most trusted lawyers for his outstanding work in disability law. For more information, Visit veterans Veterans 

I’m so grateful to have you on the show. Francis, welcome back.

Veterans Lawyer Francis Jackson: Hey, Bert. It’s always a pleasure to be here with you.


Bert Martinez: You know, and I am grateful, For the work that you guys do there at, it’s tremendous.

You know, recently in the news, we have, senator, Tuberville  who’s been holding up Military promotions because he doesn’t like some of the military policies, and, luckily, some of the other senators have been, beating on him and it looks like maybe they’ll be able to wiggle, some things around. But, here’s the situation. 

Our veterans are constantly having to fight for their benefits. It’s a sad truth. A lot of people don’t know this, but if it wasn’t for lawyers like yourself and the team at, There’s a lot of veterans that would not get their benefits.


Veterans Lawyer Francis Jackson: Sadly, that’s true, Bert.


Bert Martinez: Alright. So, let’s jump into this. I wanted to ask you some questions regarding what is being done by the VA to help the last of the World War 2 veterans.

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Veterans Lawyer Francis Jackson: Well, as you know, Bert, There were millions and millions of folks, who were in the service in World War 2, and the VA carefully tracks how many veterans there are from each each, period? And they’ve concluded that there are now roughly 119,000 world war 2 veterans who are still with us. 

And so what happened last year is that congress passed a new law which just became effective, and that law provides that all surviving World War 2 veterans are now eligible for free health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. And what is of particular importance to a lot of those folks is if you are service connected, you are eligible for free nursing home care, and that’s a big deal. 


Bert Martinez: That’s huge. Super expensive. That’s a huge benefit.


Veterans Lawyer Francis Jackson: That has just become effective. In fact, it is so recent that the VA hasn’t figured out the details for the program yet, But they’ve announced it. They said that the law has passed. It’s in effect, and we’re and we’re doing it. They haven’t figured out quite how they’re going to do it, but they’re doing it. 

So, the couple of the nursing home communities that serve veterans like the Maine veterans homes here in Maine, said they’re still waiting on further information, but, you know, they’re happy to hear it’s in place. And one of the things that the VA is stressing is that folks who were previously turned down, should reapply because there were income restrictions previously, and Those are now removed by this new law, which is named after Robert Dole, by the way.

And that is now in place, hopefully soon they’ll figure out exactly how to do it, but but it it exists, and people should be getting their applications in.

Bert Martinez: That is remarkable. Thank you, to the politicians there, for our remaining 119,000 World War 2 veterans. That’s just incredible. And that is a huge thing to have free, what do you call it? Assisted living care. That’s incredible.

That is just, you know, that it really is priceless. Yeah. Alright. So that is some great news coming into the holidays. 

Let me ask you this. What is happening to the veterans with VA mortgages who took advantage of the COVID payment reductions?


Veterans Lawyer Francis Jackson:Well, unfortunately, that’s not good holiday news. 

Here’s what’s going on, Bert. What the VA did was they allowed folks to not pay the full amount of their mortgages under COVID. And in fact, a lot of those folks were able to not pay at all. Never mind. I reduced my output, just not paying. So, that let them keep their homes during the pandemic when a lot of folks were out of work and there were other problems. But the, The difficulty is that, about a year ago, the VA then ended the part of the program that allowed the homeowner an affordable path to get current with their loan again.

So the result is that now those folks who didn’t pay or had the lower payment are in default, and the VA is foreclosing on some of them, which is really crazy, but that’s what’s going on. 

And so a group of senators has gotten together and asked the VA, to cut that out and told them they should at least wait until they, set up their new program that is supposed to replace the the part of the program that they ended, the part that lets people get back on track at an affordable rate, and the VA is saying, well, it’s It’s gonna take 4 or 5 months to implement that. 

And so now we’re foreclosing on all these people in the meantime. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that’s what’s going on. And it’s it’s real bad news for, hopefully, a fairly small group of vets, But, the the folks in the senate, particularly, John Kester, who is the head of the, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, he and some other senators are pushing the VA to stop this and, saying that this was this was never the intent behind the congressional authorization to give people forbearance during COVID. You know? The idea wasn’t to then kick them out. It was to allow them to get through The COVID period and then get back on track, but that’s what’s going on at the moment. And so, We’ll keep you up to date on developments as things go along, but it’s not pretty at the moment.

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Bert Martinez: That is a little sad and a little alarming, and I’m sure for our veterans, that’s also very stressful. Nothing more stressful than somebody trying to take away your home.

So now, in a case like that, I mean, unless congress intervenes, they just have to, unfortunately, kind of, Whatever the foreclosure process is, they have to deal with that until congress intervenes. Is that the solution?


Veterans Lawyer Francis Jackson: Unfortunately, yes. Unless congress can get these, folks at the VA will put a halt on this until they get this new program in place. That’s correct. They have to deal with it. Yeah. It’s not pretty.


Bert Martinez: Alright. So you know what? What’s going on with the PACT Act? I think last time you and I talked about this a while back, there were a bunch of lawsuits under the PACT Act. What’s going on with that?


Veterans Lawyer Francis Jackson: Oh, this there’s wild stuff going on there, Bert. As you may remember, when we talked about the PACT Act, I explained that there was this new provision allowing folks to bring suit, over illnesses or deaths of loved ones from the chemicals in the water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. 

And what I explained at the time was that this was based on the Federal Tort Claims Act, which is the law that allows you to sue the government if you get run into by the post office truck or something. But they made a change in this provision regarding Camp Lejeune to allow jury trials, which are not allowed under the Tort Claims Act. 

But the big thing that’s happened excuse me. As you may know, Our firm is not doing those cases, but there are lots of lawyers that are. And there’s been a lot of contention about what fees could be charged? Because the law itself doesn’t have any provision regarding fees. And so what’s happened is that the Navy, which is the agency that’s actually handling the individual claims, Has concluded that because this is an outgrowth, if you will, of the Federal Tort Claims Act, Then the fee caps built into the Federal Tort Claims Act apply.

And the way those work, If you are suing under the Federal Tort Claims Act and you settle with the government, you are, Only permitted to pay an attorney a maximum fee of 20% of the amount of the settlement. 

And if the case goes to trial, Then you’re allowed to pay a maximum of 25%. Now that’s coming as a big shock to a lot of law firms that went out and spent a lot of money on advertising to try to get a bunch of these cases in the door and are charging people contingent fees anywhere from 30% and higher. I’ve heard Stories that there are some people claiming that they should be entitled to a fee of 60 or 70%, which is, I think it’s pretty outrageous, but that’s, that’s what’s going on. 

So the Navy has now come out with this, Internal ruling that the fee caps in the Tort Claims Act apply, and the maximum fees are 20% if it doesn’t go to trial and 25% if it does, which is going to be a big shock for a lot of these law firms that have Spent, 1,000,000 of dollars in advertising, so we’ll see where that all goes. But, generally, in terms of, what’s going on with the situation, There are several 1,000 cases where claims have been filed, But this law is very unusual in that it specifies that the only place you can file suit He’s in the federal court in the Eastern District of North Carolina. So, the Eastern District of North Carolina has Three federal judges. Count on 3.

There are now 900 cases that have gone from the settlement level to actually filing a lawsuit, and there are literally 1,000 more that may be filed. And those 3 judges would take the next decade at least to get through all those cases. 

You know, if you stop and think about it, a jury trial in the federal court, By the time you pick the jury, opening statements, present the evidence, closing statements, go to jury deliberations, Typically takes at least a week. Complicated ones can take much longer.

But you know, at least a week typically to get through. So right now, They’ve got 900 of these pending. And you do the math, 900 weeks Divided by 3 assuming you have every judge just doing these cases, which obviously is not gonna happen. There are things they gotta do, but It’s that’s a long, long time, so the judges in the district are trying to figure out ways to, come up with the mechanisms to try to limit the volume of these cases. They actually have to go to trial.

And one of the things they’ve done is the judges have signed a joint order, giving people till the end of next May to put together a leadership team to draft plans to manage the complaints and discovery and settlement the way they would in a big class action or something like that and see whether that goes somewhere. But It looks like a lot of these cases are gonna go to trial because of all the cases that have been submitted with claims, The Navy has not yet settled 1. So It seems likely that a lot of these are gonna go to trial.

Bert Martinez: Alright. So let me ask you this, it seems odd to me that they wouldn’t settle a few of these. Doesn’t it strike you a bit odd because this Camp Lejeune thing, this toxic water, it seems like again, from my lack of evidence, not that I’ve looked at this, but it seems like it would be the Navy’s opportunity to settle these. I don’t know. I mean, you probably have more information than I do, but it seems that the Navy is being, what do you call it? I hear the lack of the term, complete hard ass about, this when they took so long to correct the issue even if they don’t know if it’s even corrected now.


Veterans Lawyer Francis Jackson: Well, the issue has been corrected now, but I agree with you that it does seem like they’re playing hardball. I, my experience with the Federal Tort Claims Act over the years has been that the folks that defend those Typically do play hardball. I did settle a couple of them over the years, but it was never easy. 

And, You know, the thing is you have to keep in mind it’s the government, so they’re not doing this the way an insurance company does it where they sit down and look at, okay, what are our risks? What are the likely outcomes if we go to trial? What are the financial risks for us? I mean, you know, the government’s not gonna get driven into bankruptcy like some defendants have in big class action lawsuits. 

And as far as I can see, the folks who are doing this for the Navy have not been given any incentive to settle these cases. They really are playing hardball, and we’ll just see where it goes. But I think some of the firms that have invested a lot of money in these cases are going to have, Some real issues. One of the other issues that has come up is I’ve heard from other law firms that they’re having a problem with false claims.

They’re having to really screen these cases carefully. Because there are some unscrupulous scammers around the country who are coaching people to make false claims and telling them what they should say. And so, the law firms that are doing this are having to really, carefully vet the people who are making claims and Right. Trying to make sure they’re on the up and up. So it’s it’s, I think it’s gonna turn into a real nightmare for some of these firms that have put a lot of money into this and taken on a lot of cases.

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Bert Martinez: Well, certainly. Because some of these law firms, as you know, have spent a couple of million dollars just in advertising and marketing. And now that’s good

They know they’ve made the mistake of and this is a very common entrepreneurial take. Right? You look at something and you go, oh, this is the way it works. I’m a, let’s say, a personal injury attorney or a mass tort attorney, And they’re used to getting these 30, these 33% fees and these 50% fees, and they’re thinking, oh, this will work the same way. And just think, just think how different it would have been for them if they would have reached out to somebody with your knowledge and said, hey, we’re thinking about doing this. How does this really work? They probably would have taken completely different actions.


Veterans Lawyer Francis Jackson: Oh, you never know, Bert. But, I think some people have gotten themselves in a real hole here, so we’ll, you know, see where it all goes.


Bert Martinez: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I understand the trial is not cheap. The good news and I’m just, I guess, for lack of better terms, you know, trying to be positive here, is that some of these cases are gonna have a lot of the same facts. 

You know, unlike having 1,000 different cases with 1,000 different fact patterns, The good news is that a lot of these are gonna have the exact same fact pattern. Some of them are gonna even have the exact same date, same kind of injuries, so that will be a savings. Maybe not enough, but, Yeah. There’s a lesson there for everybody. 

The old don’t assume, verify kind of a thing. So yeah. But, you know, hopefully hopefully, the lawyers will, you know, the they I hope they make I hope they make whatever, you know, that they make some money, but, ultimately, what I really hope is that the veterans are taken care of. Because some of these families, this is not just the veterans or the soldiers themselves.

These are the families that were on base. We’re talking children and pregnant peep pregnant women and just entire families that were made extremely sick, and they deserve to be compensated.

Veterans Lawyer Francis Jackson: Well, I don’t think there’s any question about that, Bert, and I think that, A lot of, a lot of folks are trying to do the right thing here. If it’s just, I’m afraid that there are some, BI firms that may have, may have been a little greedy and may have, may have come back to bite them.


Bert Martinez: Now let me ask you this, because you brought up something kind of interesting. You have some of these firms that, again, are wanting to get higher fees, and I remember that there are some uncredited associations, organizations asking veterans to pay them for help with their claims. And so, What’s going on with that? I mean, as far as these organizations that, like I just said, they’re not accredited, there, I guess, outside of the law firm. I’m assuming that’s not the correct way to do it. They’re asking these vets for money for help. What’s up with this?


Veterans Lawyer Francis Jackson: Well, there’s a fair amount going on there, Bert. You know, a bunch of these companies have sprung up, and, because of all this, the pack type claims in particular, not the specific Camp Lejeune water illness claims, but the kind of enhanced, package of veterans benefits that the pack tax provides.

That has led to a huge number of new claims. The VA, has said that they ‘ve gotten more than 2,000,000, new app new claims applications in this fiscal year, up almost 40% from the previous year, and they’ve already paid out 163,000,000,000 in benefits. So A lot of money is at stake, and so you’ve got these folks who tell veterans that they will help them file their claims. Now, nobody is allowed to represent veterans on the filing of their claims and charge a fee. So what these companies do is they say they’re providing consulting services to veterans, And they ask veterans to pay them upfront for it. 

There’s a bill pending, called the Garth bill, which is being supported by the attorneys general for most of the states asking congress to, specifically, impose criminal penalties for people who do this. Up until a few years ago, it was a crime.

You could go to jail, literally, for you to charge a veteran a fee for helping them submit an application. 

You can do as lots of Lawyers and other agents do after the Person has made a claim, and if their claim is denied, you’re authorized to help them. 

But nobody’s authorized to charge a fee for helping them submit a claim, and that’s what’s going on. So there’s now, there’s so much money at stake here that a lot of these folks are setting up these companies to supposedly help veterans. One’s called the Veterans Benefits Guide, for example. And, it’s become a cottage industry. 

There are literally thousands of these claims being filed, and it’s, it’s making the people at, places like the VFW and Disabled American Veterans and, Vietnam Veterans of America and so on. Just absolutely crazy, seeing these people do this.

So, it’s a big issue. There’s some legislation in Congress that on the other side, would let these folks actually be paid to do this. So who knows where that’s all going? A lot of these folks are not doing all that well, and there are lawsuits against some of them, but, as you know, getting congress to do pretty much anything at the moment is problematic. So, I don’t know if the Guard Act is gonna pass. These folks have put in their own legislation called the Plus Act, which would let them get fees for doing this. It’s just hard to know where this is all going, but right now, all you can really safely say is it’s a real mess.

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Bert Martinez: Again, it’s one of those situations where, this is an industry, for lack of better terms, that has popped up because the government sometimes can’t figure out what it’s doing. And Yep. I totally get, hey. You know, we don’t want you charging our veterans to help them fill out a claim. I get that. That’s cool. But I think that and, again, I think that the VA has tried their best to simplify it and make it as simple as possible. But, at the same time, there’s a lot of veterans that get turned down, and then they don’t know what to do.

This is like a foreign language. I mean, first of all, I’m sorry, dealing with the government. Just a regular form, is almost like a foreign language. Dealing with a complex form like claims and evidence is really difficult and can frustrate people, and I know from our friendship that you’ve helped clients. I think you had 1 client that from the time you started till the time that he got compensated was, like, 10 or 12 years.


Veterans Lawyer Francis Jackson: Oh, yeah. Yeah. That has happened.


Bert Martinez: Yeah. So it’s just too bad that this is happening, and I hope that the government gets a handle on it sooner than later. And I guess my question is, if you have some non accredited organizations helping out veterans, assuming they do a good job and they do everything above board, Are they still in violation of the law?


Veterans Lawyer Francis Jackson: Well, that’s why it’s the gray area, Bert. There’s no longer a specific law that says you can’t do this. The way the law is set up, it says you can only charge a fee if you do these things, but what these folks are trying to say is, well, The fact that it says you can only charge a fee in these circumstances doesn’t doesn’t say that you can’t charge a fee in these other circumstances, So we think we can. And I think that’s a tough one to sell, but that’s what they’re doing.

Bert Martinez: That is, unfortunate. But again, The government sometimes makes it so hard that you know, we’re we’re all we’ve all been there. If you get desperate enough, you’ll reach out to anybody to help you. It’s and this is really why a lot of people get scammed. That ‘s the fear factor. 

Let me ask you this, since we’re almost out of time, I wanna have you kinda walk me through the process. If I’m a veteran, I go to And how does the process work? You guys review my case, then what happens?


Veterans Lawyer Francis Jackson: Sure. Well, like everything in the law, it depends. But if, If we think you have a good case and you’ve already been turned down by the VA, we will immediately take your case and help you to file the appropriate appeal or supplemental claim or higher level review or whatever your particular case calls for, and then move it on through the system, help you get the evidence to support it. 

And, if we all last long enough, about 95% of the people that do that will ultimately get their benefits. The place it gets tricky is if you haven’t already applied. Those are the people who are, being, really targeted by these folks. And most attorneys, and agents do not help folks who have not yet applied because, you have to do it pro bono, and you can only afford to do a certain amount of that and stay in business. But, We do take some cases where we think there is a particularly meritorious case even though we’re not allowed to get paid for the initial application.

You know, we do that to help folks out. If, if you have one of those cases, then what happens is we will help you to file your claim. We will not charge you anything for the process of filing the claim. And once you get a decision, we’ll look at it and decide whether you’ve gotten what you’re entitled to or not. And if not, then we’ll advise you what we think should be done by way of an appeal, And you’re free to either continue with us in appeal or, to, go your merry way and do whatever you decide to do on your own.


Bert Martinez: Yeah. I got you. That brings up the question, how complicated is it to fill out your initial claim, is it something that a lawyer really needs to be involved in? Or has it been simplified enough where the average layperson can complete the initial form.

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Veterans Lawyer Francis Jackson: What we see is that, you know, well educated, sophisticated people often file their own claims without any problem. Folks who are Ill or, elderly or, poorly educated may struggle with it. The VA has one primary form, the 526 e z, and unfortunately, they have about 10 other forms if you have certain other special circumstances, so it can be complicated. And the form’s not easy, but think of it as, doing your own taxes if you’re an ordinary taxpayer who gets a a, regular paycheck every week or 2 weeks And doesn’t have any, you know, special fancy financial issues. It’s no more complicated than that. 


Bert Martinez: Yeah. And I think that’s a great analogy. I mean, look, if you are, I don’t know, let’s say a young person, You can get away with doing the 10 40 easy form. Right? Bam. Here you go. Life as you start to have a property and deductions, The 10.40 e z no longer works. You gotta go with the straight 10.40, and then you wanna you know, there may be some deductions, some itemizations. It does become complicated very quickly.

And Yep. Yeah. So, I think for a lot of people, including myself, I definitely rely on a professional to help me fill out my tax forms. It’s incredible to me that the government is such a stickler about allowing people to help veterans, fill out this form. I guess, again, they they’re they’re hoping I don’t know if they’re hoping not to get as many claims or they’re hoping to be able to deny more claims or are they trying to protect veterans because, it seems like if they really are trying to help the veterans, the they’re they want to, make sure those forms are completed correctly the 1st time so they don’t get denied. 

Does the VA help in that sense? If I call the VA and say, listen. I’m struggling to complete this form. Can you help me out? Is there a program for that or not at all?


Veterans Lawyer Francis Jackson:Yeah. You can go to your local VA and talk to a service rep, and they will help you. Free services in helping out with that are available through a lot of the veteran service organizations like the American Legion or Disabled American Veterans or Paralyzed Veterans of America or Vietnam Veterans of America. 

There are free services available in almost every state that have a state level system where they have state or county veteran service organizations That will help you to do that for free. 

A lot of states actually employ veteran service officers to, to help veterans with that sort of thing. Massachusetts has an amazing system where every town of I think it’s 12,000 or more has to have a veteran service officer, employed by the town to provide those services. So, you know, it’s, it’s not that there isn’t help available. It’s that a lot of people are just intimidated, don’t know where to go for help, and end up seeing ads for these, These fancy scams, and they send money.

Bert Martinez: Yeah. That’s too bad. But, again, for everybody listening, if you know of a family veteran, give this information to veterans, you know, if we don’t want our veterans to suffer in silence, and we don’t want their families to struggle either. 

There’s tons of different programs that are not just for veterans themselves, but also support the family and their children. 

And so by going to veterans, you can get some free information. You can talk to Francis Jackson and his team for free, and they’ll point you in the right direction. And as you heard here, If he can help you out, he’ll be glad to do so.

There’s no obligation. You can take your information and go, do whatever you want. But Let’s share this episode, and Francis, thank you so much for the work you do, and thank you so much for stopping by.

Veterans Lawyer Francis Jackson: It is my pleasure I always enjoy the opportunity to chat with you. Enjoy your holidays, and we’ll talk to you soon. Happy Thanksgiving, my friend.


Bert Martinez: Alright. Good stuff there from Veterans Lawyer Francis Jackson. 

Again, guys, let’s share this episode everyone, you know, specifically anybody in the military. I don’t care. Maybe they’re active in the military, but guess what? Those active military people know other people who might need help.

Let’s talk to them about veterans Let’s help them and let’s just support. It’s a really simple way to support our troops.

Remember, you were created to succeed. 

Tune in Monday through Friday here on Money For Lunch, and check out our website at




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