SeniorLAW Center recently presented testimony about our stellar Providing Legal Services to Older Veterans Project at the annual public hearings of the Philadelphia Veterans Advisory Commission*. On Wednesday, December 9, 2015, Legal Director Wendy Bookler and Staff Attorney Cateria R. McCabe testified before the Commission, as well as many invited guests and other veterans’ services providers.
Wendy Bookler testified about the types of services available to senior veterans and their families through the Project as well as SeniorLAW Center’s broader areas of services, including the PA SeniorLAW HelpLine. She explained our widespread efforts to become involved in the general veteran community and, through those efforts, to make veterans in need of legal services aware of our services. She described our community outreach efforts, our relationship with the Commission and its director Scott Brown, our participation in the Delaware Valley Veterans Consortium and about the extensive work that SeniorLAW Center does in the areas of advocacy, education and direct representation. She addressed certain issues raised by audience members about access to services and about non-veterans who provide those services to veterans. She invited all in attendance to contact us to schedule outreach and education programs for their groups and to spread the word of our efforts.
Cateria R. McCabe, an Army Veteran, testified about SeniorLAW Center’s Veterans Project and, in illustration of the types of cases we handle as part of the Project, she shared a case story about a 68-year old veteran we represented in a real estate tax foreclosure action. The veteran had served active duty in the Marine Corps, followed by service in the National Guard and Reserve. While serving in the Reserve, he had been stabbed in the chest during an attempted robbery, being critically injured. He lost almost 30 pounds in 11 days and was unable to work for a full year while recovering. His finances were so negatively impacted, he was unable to pay his real estate taxes. When his home was scheduled for tax foreclosure by the City, leaving the senior desperately facing homelessness, he called SeniorLAW Center. This was not a simple matter to resolve, as title to the veteran’s home was not in his name. The record owner of the property was his father, who had died in 1995. As a result, the veteran could not qualify for an affordable property tax agreement with the City to save his home from foreclosure. Under the Veterans Project, SeniorLAW Center assisted the senior to probate his father’s estate, complete the estate administration process and ultimately transfer the deed into the veteran’s name. SeniorLAW Center also helped him work out an affordable property tax agreement with the City, saving the home from foreclosure. Additionally, SeniorLAW Center helped him apply for other property tax programs to help his taxes stay at an affordable level, so that he could maintain his home going forward. Ms. McCabe testified: “I am proud to say that through the efforts of SeniorLAW Center, this veteran is now the record owner of his home, where he is able to live safely and securely.”
*The Veterans Advisory Commission was established in 1957, pursuant to City Council Resolution. The goal is to “proactively serve the veterans of our city by providing them with the information they need to ensure that they receive all the benefits they rightfully deserve. We also strive to locate and refer veterans to the appropriate agency of the government, or social service agency, to provide them with the counseling or services they require. Additionally, we maintain continuous contacts with veterans’ organizations, as well as governmental and other service providers, to assess the needs of our veterans and to serve as vocal advocates to see those needs are met.”