Learn about VA Benefits with Emon Northe | Francene Marie Show

Emon Northe, attorney and Veterans Legal Services Unit Manager, joins the Francene Marie Show to share important information about the legal issues facing veterans and the services Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy provides.

Skadden Fellow Joins our Veterans Legal Services Unit

Nevah Jones joined the Advocacy Center as a Skadden Fellow in our Veterans Legal Services Unit in September.  In addition to serving as an attorney for low-income veterans in need of service-related payments and benefits from VA, Nevah will expand our existing medical-legal partnership to include legal training for clinicians providing care to veterans.

Nevah will focus on educating clinicians about what is legally necessary to craft a medical opinion in support of a veteran’s VA claims, as veterans have a higher burden of proof when submitting medical documentation for service-related disability benefits.  She will advocate to address potential systemic issues in the initial stages of medical assessment that may result in payment or benefit denials for those to whom it is lawfully due. In addition, Nevah will also work with clinicians to identify health care barriers for veterans living with racial trauma stemming from military service.  Racial discrimination within the military contributes to mental health conditions that may result in less than honorable discharge characterizations.  Veterans who seek to upgrade their discharge characterization to access treatment or service-related benefits need credible medical evidence of their race-based trauma.

As a 20-year veteran of the Air Force, Nevah feels a unique connection to this work:

“In the military, I saw injured servicemembers pressured to ‘soldier on’ instead of seeking the medical care that they needed. Those same individuals were then disciplined and discharged when their untreated ailments made it difficult to do their jobs. I regret that I could not do more for my airmen then. It is because of them that I am singularly focused on getting veterans access to necessary health care and benefits today.”

Read Nevah’s full bio

If you are a clinician or attorney interested in learning more about these educational and legal efforts, please contact Nevah.

Fighting for Veterans like Rocky

Rocky proudly shows off his Air Force hat as he begins to share stories of his time in the military.  Adorned with the year 1947, the year the Air Force was formed, and the phrase “No one comes close”, the hat is a reminder of his service as a radar operator in the early 1970’s.  During his time in the service, Rocky spent a year stationed in Okinawa and then later off a remote island in the South Pacific.  After his remote duty, he returned to the United States and was ultimately discharged as a Sergeant in 1975.   

The physical toll of his military service followed Rocky into older age.  His loving wife of over 25 years became his primary caregiver as he faced the onset of Parkinson’s, in addition to suffering from colitis and other agonizing physical injuries throughout his body.  During his time overseas, Rocky was exposed to chemicals linked to Parkinson’s, colitis, Crohn’s disease, and other auto immune disorders.  Like many veterans, Rocky was slow to connect his resulting medical issues to his time in the service.   

“As American soldiers we are trained to be independent.  We are hesitant to go to the Veteran’s Administration (VA) to ask for help or to get disability benefits.  It’s easy to relate to someone with a bullet wound or a shrapnel wound, but when you look like you are healthy, it is harder to see the damage that was done.” 

Rocky’s condition became so debilitating that he had to stop working in 2014.  He and his wife were forced to sell their home when their social security benefits were insufficient to cover their mortgage and his medical bills.  He knew additional benefits were available to him as a veteran, but he did not know where to start. 

“I didn’t know how to navigate the disability benefit process alone.  It was too daunting.  There is no way we would have been able to do it without help.  Thank God for Emon.” 

Emon Northe, staff attorney and Veterans Legal Services Project Coordinator at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, became an impassioned advocate for Rocky and his wife, Celeste.  Ultimately submitting an application over 400 pages long on Rocky’s behalf, Emon worked tirelessly to help Rocky secure a grant of individual unemployability which provided access to backpay and disability benefits, as well as healthcare benefits for his wife.  Emon’s work had a lasting impact on Rocky’s long-term economic stability: 

“The disability benefits have allowed us to totally turn our lives around financially.  We were able to buy a house and make it wheelchair accessible.” 

Unfortunately, Rocky’s experience is not unique.  The VA’s disability benefit process is extremely stringent, requiring extensive documentation from the time you are hurt through the day you apply for benefits.  Rocky leaned on his wife’s thoroughness to help him supply the necessary documentation and acknowledges that not all veterans are fortunate to have that family support.  In addition, Emon’s legal experience and thorough knowledge of the benefit system meant she knew where to push for further documentation and what would ultimately be required to ensure Rocky was granted access to benefits.  Without support from family or legal representation, many veterans are left to navigate the system alone and are vulnerable to continued instability. Rocky is grateful for the Advocacy Center: 

“It gives us peace of mind that there is an organization like yours that is willing to step in for people that don’t have the money or the resources.  Having someone there for you is a blessing.  You showed me that it was not my fault.  You helped me see that I served this country and was hurt because of it.”      

During his time as a client, Rocky developed a special relationship with Emon and expresses deep gratitude for her dedication: 

“Emon went above and beyond to help us.  I would adopt her if she let me.  She was like an angel to us, but I guess angels don’t carry cell phones.” 

If you or someone you know is a veteran facing economic instability or housing insecurity, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is here to help.  We serve low-income veterans and families in Mecklenburg, Cabarrus and Union Counties who are seeking help with disability benefit claims and appeals, discharge upgrades and over-payment issues, as well as additional civil legal matters, at little or no cost.  Learn more how we can help.