News

NEW: Financial Assistance for Veterans

In this time of great economic uncertainty, financial assistance is available for eligible Massachusetts residents who have served in the military. Chapter 115 provides financial assistance to low-income veterans and their dependents, including survivors, across Massachusetts. Whether they need monthly assistance or one-time needs based funds, the Chapter 115 program can help veteran families with expenses like rent, utilities, medical bills, or other everyday bills. 

Veterans can find out if they’re eligible for this financial assistance by visiting the Massachusetts Veteran Benefit Calculator—an online, public resource for veterans and their families that can be accessed from a computer, phone, or tablet. It can be used by anyone on behalf of a veteran or a dependent of a veteran, and will help them learn if they may qualify for monthly, or one-time, financial assistance.


The Massachusetts Veterans Benefit Calculator is fast and easy to use.

  • Visit MassVetBen.org
  • Answer a series of questions to find out if you might be eligible
  • Get a list of the documents you need to apply for benefits, and contact information for the local Veterans Service Officer who can assist with your application


These benefits also apply to eligible dependents of veterans after the veterans have died. Benefits can range from a few hundred dollars per month to $1,000 per month. The benefits are administered by the Department of Veterans Services (DVS) and local municipalities’ Veterans’ Service Offices (VSO).

Veterans and their dependents can visit the online calculator, answer simple questions, and receive an immediate estimate of their potential eligibility for Chapter 115 benefits. If they are eligible, users can download a form with their answers to the tool’s screening questions and connect with their local VSO. In partnership with the state, the VSO will assist the veteran or dependent with their official application for Chapter 115 benefits and manage the process of accessing benefits should the applicant meet eligibility requirements.


Read Our Self-Help Guide for Chapter 115 Benefits

chapter 115 self-help guide

Remembering John D. Hamilton Jr., Law Firm Leader and Legal Services Champion

We mourn the passing of John D. Hamilton, a longtime champion of legal services, who was instrumental in the establishment of a permanent home for LSC in Jamaica Plain. The post below was originally published by WilmerHale on March 16, 2020.

It is with great sorrow that we announce the death of retired Hale and Dorr Managing Partner John D. Hamilton Jr., who passed away on March 3 at the age of 85.

John Hamilton rose to prominence first as a real estate lawyer who helped shape the Boston skyline of the 1970s and 80s and then as managing partner of the law firm Hale and Dorr LLP (now WilmerHale), a position he held for more than 15 years.

Ahead of his time on matters ranging from diversity to public service to technology and large firm administration, Mr. Hamilton is best remembered by family, friends, colleagues and the communities he served as modest, selfless and genuinely interested in the well-being of all those who crossed his path. Wherever he saw a need, an inequity or a better way forward, he was tireless in his determination to effect change. He was, above all, a person of great integrity and decency.

Upon his graduation from Harvard Law School in 1960—following two years’ service in the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps and the United States Navy Reserve—Mr. Hamilton was recruited to the real estate department of Boston’s Hale and Dorr.

There, he helped reshape the Boston real estate landscape during the city’s revival, becoming an expert in the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s plans for urban renewal. He provided guidance on complex permitting, financing, leasing, construction and maintenance matters, helping his clients translate their vision for Boston’s revitalization into a reality through the development of high-rise office buildings, hotels, factories, apartment complexes and shopping centers. Among many other highlights, he served as counsel to Carpenter & Company in its development of the Charles Hotel in Cambridge and Four Seasons properties across the country. Rising to the position of real estate department chair, he grew the group to what was, by the mid-1980s, the fourth-largest real estate practice in the United States.

In the late 1970s, Mr. Hamilton also took on the role of hiring partner, and brought to Hale and Dorr a collection of exceptional young lawyers that would propel the firm to the forefront of an evolving legal industry. In 1976, he hired William F. Lee, spotting the qualities that would make Lee one of the nation’s foremost trial, appellate and intellectual property litigators, and later the first Asian-American managing partner of an AmLaw 100 firm. In the mid-1980s, he brought in MIT-trained mechanical engineer and Harvard Law School–pedigreed lawyer James B. Lampert to found one of the first intellectual property practices at a general practice law firm. These hires, and many others, helped place Hale and Dorr at the leading edge of the profession as it moved toward the 21st century.

In 1984, the partners of Hale and Dorr asked Mr. Hamilton to become managing partner, making him Hale and Dorr’s fourth leader in its then 66-year history.

As managing partner, Mr. Hamilton was—in the words of Lee, who became his successor in 2000—the firm’s “visionary, architect, builder, mentor and leader.” He transformed Hale and Dorr’s compensation system and governance structure, brought in the firm’s first executive director to build an efficient, strong and effective professional staff, and shepherded the firm’s first steps into the international arena. By 2000, when Mr. Hamilton stepped down as managing partner, the firm had almost doubled its lawyer headcount and added offices in New York City and Reston, Virginia, as well as joint venture offices in London and Oxford, and even a presence in Prague.

Mr. Hamilton was famous for what former colleague Bill O’Reilly describes as his “management by walking around” style, which made him a constant, and genial, presence in the halls. “John was a people person,” says Dan Halston, current partner-in-charge of WilmerHale’s Boston office. “He knew everyone, both lawyers and staff, and would always remember the names of their children and grandchildren.”

Showing remarkable prescience in recognizing the importance of well-being and work-life balance for those in the legal profession, Mr. Hamilton brought yoga and mindfulness programs to the firm. He was also ahead of his time in promoting diversity in law and business, using his position as founding member of the Boston Lawyers Group to encourage the business community to recruit, advance and retain lawyers of color.

Perhaps his greatest professional legacy, however, is the foundation laid by his leadership in pro bono and community service. Marrying his business acumen with his drive to give back to the community, Mr. Hamilton sought out opportunities to make the greatest impact.

After involving the firm as a charter signatory in the Pro Bono Institute’s Pro Bono Challenge, he worked with John F. “Jack” Cogan Jr.—his predecessor as managing partner—to establish the Hale and Dorr Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School (LSC).He and Cogan coordinated a substantial gift from the Hale and Dorr partners, enabling the purchase and rehabilitation of a building to house the LSC in the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, where the firm’s lawyers became volunteer advocates for Boston’s most underserved communities. Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Cogan were recognized by the LSC with its Bellow-Charn Champion of Justice Legacy Award in 2019, in honor of the 25th anniversary of the organization’s founding.

Upon the launch of the Walden Woods Project in 1990, Mr. Hamilton worked with the organization and its founder, musician Don Henley, to preserve Henry David Thoreau’s iconic Walden Woods. Mr. Hamilton also founded the Hale and Dorr Youth and Education Initiative, employing a pioneering philanthropic model combining financial support, pro bono representation and volunteer service to make a decisive impact on the futures of children and teens. After more than 20 years, the initiative continues to grow.

Mr. Hamilton’s many honors include the Pro Bono Institute’s Chesterfield Smith Award, which recognizes law firm leaders who have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to equal justice; City Year’s Civic Innovation Award; the Princeton Class of 1955 Distinguished Achievement Award; and WilmerHale’s James D. St. Clair Award for Professional Excellence.

Veterans Legal Clinic Releases Report Documenting VA’s Systemic Denial of Health Care to Veterans with Bad Paper


More than 400,000 veterans currently at risk of being unlawfully turned away from treatment for service-related mental health conditions and other disabilities without due process

Thousands of veterans with less-than-honorable “bad paper” discharges have been unlawfully turned away when they attempted to seek health care at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), according to a report published today by the Veterans Legal Clinic on behalf of OUTVETS, a national LGBT veterans community organization.

The report found that inadequate and flawed training, guidance, and oversight of VA front-line staff puts more than 400,000 veterans at risk of being turned away for health care or has dissuaded them from even trying to apply.

Turn-Away Map

Above: Veterans from states across the country reported being unlawfully turned away by VA when they sought health care. Reports of turn-aways came from states shaded teal in the above map.

For years, the Veterans Legal Clinic has been hearing from its veteran clients who have bad paper that when they try to apply for health care at VA, they are turned away and denied the opportunity to apply, simply on the basis of the less-than-honorable discharge status listed on their DD 214 discharge papers. In response to hearing the same story from veterans again and again, Veterans Legal Clinic staff and students launched an investigation, which included interviewing additional veterans, reaching out to veterans advocates nationwide, and pursuing public records requests at VA and the Department of Defense. In its investigation, the Clinic partnered with Veterans Legal Services, a Boston-based civil legal aid office that serves veterans and their families, and pro bono attorneys at WilmerHale LLP.

Turn Away Report Cover

Click to download the full report.

The resultant report, Turned Away: How VA Unlawfully Denies Health Care to Veterans with Bad Paper, includes new data from the Department of Defense about the significant number of veterans who have received so-called “bad paper” discharges, as well as internal documents from VA health facilities that provide incorrect information to staff about health care eligibility for veterans with bad paper. The report shares the stories of individual veterans, many of whom were deployed to combat or who served multiple enlistments, who were unlawfully turned away by VA when they returned home. In many cases, veterans received “bad paper” discharges because they were gay or lesbian, or because they have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or another mental health condition caused by their military service that led to actions resulting in their separation from the military.

OUTVETS National Commander Bryan Bishop, an Air Force veteran, said, “VA has a duty to care for our returning servicemembers.” Bishop continued, “Whether a veteran got bad paper when they were kicked out for being gay or lesbian, or based on conduct caused by an undiagnosed mental health condition like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury, or some other reason, VA is supposed to help that person and try to get them whatever support they are entitled to.”

“By law, every person—regardless of military discharge status—has the right to apply for VA health care, to have VA consider that application on the merits, and to receive a written decision,” said Dana Montalto, Clinical Instructor at the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, who co-authored the report. “However, we heard from veterans and veterans advocates from across the country that instead, when a veteran with bad paper attempts to apply for health care, the front-desk staffer denies the veteran on the spot, without due process, merely by looking at the veteran’s DD 214 discharge papers.”

no wrong door quoteVeterans with bad paper are some of the most at-risk veterans in need of supportive services, with higher rates of mental health conditions and homelessness. Studies show that veterans with bad paper are at three times the risk of suicide, but that veterans with bad paper who have recently accessed mental health care at VA are at no greater risk of suicide than other veterans. “Access to VA health care is life-saving for veterans with bad paper,” said Anna Richardson, Co-Founder and Chief Counsel at Veterans Legal Services, who co-authored the report. “VA must adopt a no-wrong-door approach to ensure that every veteran gets the opportunity to apply for and to receive the support that they need and deserve.”

The Veterans Legal Clinic is using this report to call on VA to take immediate steps to ensure that no veteran is unlawfully turned away from applying for health care, including by improving its internal training and guidance, and by conducting outreach to find veterans unlawfully turned away.

Key Report Findings

  • For decades, and in cities across the country, VA has been turning away veterans with bad paper discharges when they seek treatment or attempt to enroll in health care. More than 400,000 veterans are at risk of being turned away if they were to try to apply for health care today.
  • VA enrollment manuals, handbooks, and trainings often provided incorrect information about VA’s eligibility rules for veterans with bad paper. Internal documents frequently stated or suggested that veterans with bad paper discharges are categorically ineligible for VA health care, which is incorrect.
  • Certain groups of veterans—including those with service-related mental health conditions—are more likely to be turned away by VA. Veterans who served in the Navy or Marine Corps, who were enlisted, who served in the Post-9/11 Era, or who have a mental health condition such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are more likely to be discharged with bad paper, and are therefore more likely to be turned away by VA.

Download the Report at www.legalservicescenter.org/TurnedAwaybyVA

Read the Washington Post’s coverage of the report here.

The Legacy of John F. Cogan, Leader in Boston Legal & Philanthropic Communities

John F Cogan

John F. Cogan at LSC’s 40th Anniversary Celebration. (Photo by Steve Gilbert.)

LSC mourns the loss of John F. “Jack” Cogan ‘52, longtime champion of the Legal Services Center, who passed away in late January at age 93.

Cogan, a Harvard Law graduate and former managing partner at Hale & Dorr (now WilmerHale) was known as much for his philanthropy as he was for his accomplishments as an attorney. In addition to supporting various Boston-area arts and health care organizations, Cogan was a stalwart supporter of legal services. Along with other Harvard Law alumni at Hale & Dorr, Cogan provided significant support to LSC and was instrumental in the effort to establish a permanent home for LSC in Jamaica Plain. LSC honored Cogan with the WilmerHale Champion of Justice Legacy Award at its 40th Anniversary in April 2019.

Cogan was revered by colleagues and friends alike for his generosity and his dedication to using his knowledge and resources to support others, mentoring countless attorneys throughout his long career. He was especially dedicated to supporting aspiring attorneys at his alma mater, and believed deeply in the potential for Harvard Law School graduates to make a positive difference in the world. Cogan described working in the law as a constant learning process, saying “…there’s a certain humbling in practice. You can be involved in a problem and think you understand all four corners of it. Then sometimes in further discussions someone will make a point that makes you realize you’ve missed something.”

At LSC, we are proud to carry on this tradition and Jack’s dedication to service and learning.

Daniel Nagin, Faculty Director of the Legal Services Center and Vice Dean for Experiential and Clinical Education at Harvard Law School, expressed his appreciation for Cogan, saying, “While we are saddened to learn of Jack’s passing, we are filled with gratitude for his support for LSC over so many years. Our thoughts are with Jack’s family, friends, and colleagues.”

Read Harvard Law School’s tribute to Cogan here.

LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic launches at Harvard Law School

The Legal Services Center will be home to a new LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic headed by Alex Chen ’15, an HLS lecturer on law and clinical instructor. 

The following was published by Harvard Law Today on January 28, 2020.

Harvard Law School today announced the launch of the new LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic.

The clinic will provide students the opportunity to work directly on cutting-edge issues involving LGBTQ+ rights, with a particular emphasis on issues affecting underrepresented individuals and groups within the LGBTQ+ community. Clinic offerings include local and national projects covering the spectrum of LGBTQ+ issues. Students will engage in a range of work encompassing various strategies for advancing LGBTQ+ rights, including impact litigation and amicus work, policy and legislative advocacy, and direct legal services for LGBTQ+ clients.

“The LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic will give our students a wonderful opportunity to address vital legal issues in an important and rapidly developing field, to provide first-rate legal representation to the LGBTQ+ community, to develop practice skills and substantive knowledge at the very highest levels, and to make a positive difference in the world,” said John F. Manning ’85, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean of Harvard Law School. “I want to welcome the clinic’s terrific new director, Alex Chen, and to wish him and his students well as they undertake the important work of this new clinic.”

Alex Chen ’15, an HLS lecturer on law and clinical instructor, will serve as founding director of the clinic. A graduate of HLS, Chen has been a tireless advocate in recent years in efforts to protect and expand LGBTQ+ civil rights.

Alex Chen

LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic Director Alex Chen (Photo: Lorin Granger)

Announcing the clinic, Harvard Law School Clinical Professor Dan Nagin, vice dean for experiential and clinical education and faculty director of the WilmerHale Legal Services Center (LSC) and Veterans Legal Clinic, said: “Alex Chen is a fantastic advocate and creative thinker who also possesses a deep commitment to mentorship and community. Under Alex’s leadership, the LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic promises to provide singular learning opportunities for law students and critical legal services to underserved populations. We could not be more thrilled to welcome Alex back to Harvard Law School.”

The LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic will be based at LSC, a general practice community law office in Jamaica Plain.

Lisa Dealy, assistant dean for the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs at Harvard Law School, added: “We are so fortunate to have Alex join HLS—I cannot think of a better person to start the new LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic. Alex is already well-known in the national LGBTQ+ advocacy community and will bring his boundless energy, vision, intellect and connectedness to create a clinic that can help shape national movements. I cannot wait to see all that Alex, his students, his colleagues and advocacy partners will do together as part of the new clinic.”

In 2017, Chen was named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 for his groundbreaking legal work to expand the rights of transgender youth. As an Equal Justice Works fellow at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) in San Francisco, Chen conducted national LGBT civil rights impact litigation, legislative and policy advocacy, and public education, including in education, employment, health care, housing, prison, conversion therapy, and child welfare and juvenile justice settings.

He was a member of the litigation team in transgender military ban cases (Doe v. Trump and Stockman v. Trump) and a landmark Ninth Circuit transgender prisoner surgery access case, Edmo v. Corizon. He co-drafted AB 2119, a bill making California the first state to guarantee transition-related health care access for trans youth in foster care. He also wrote the “Trans Youth Handbook,” a first-of-its-kind legal resource guide for trans youth and their families.

“I am thrilled that Harvard Law School is launching the LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic, which will offer students the opportunity to develop their legal advocacy skills while providing critical services to the LGBTQ+ community. I look forward to rejoining the HLS community, and working together with HLS’s incredible faculty and staff to build this exciting new initiative,” Chen said.

At HLS, Chen will supervise clinical students on client matters related to LGBTQ+ civil rights law and he will teach a course on Gender Identity and the Law. Course topics will include constitutional and statutory law; sex-segregated spaces and activities; religion-, speech-, and ethics-based objections; access to health care and reproductive technology; non-binary and intersex identities; race and transgender experience, and military, family, and prison litigation.

Chen earned a B.A. from the University of Oxford in 2009, an M.A. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University in 2012 and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2015. At Oxford, Chen was awarded the Wadham College Prize for outstanding performance in final-year examinations. Born in Colorado, the son of Chinese immigrants, Chen was awarded a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship in 2014. Chen has also lived in Southern California, Canada, and Hong Kong.

While a student at HLS, he co-founded Queer Trans People of Color at HLS and the Labor and Employment Action Project at HLS, and he served as a student attorney in the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic and the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project. He was also an articles editor for the Harvard Law Review, and on the board of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review.

During the summer following his second year at HLS, he served as a fellow for the National Center for Transgender Equality, in Washington, D.C., where he drafted policy guidance for federal agencies and performed legal research on employment, criminal, administrative, and education issues involving transgender people, and as a legal intern in the Educational Opportunities Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Washington, D.C., where he drafted legal briefs, reviewed depositions, and prepared witnesses for desegregation hearings. He also performed legal research for Department of Education Title IX sexual violence guidelines and reviewed Title IX complaints.

As a 2013 legal intern for the American Civil Liberties Union, LGBT & HIV Project, in New York City, he conducted legal research for LGBT civil rights impact litigation, including on marriage equality (United States v. Windsor), family law, status decriminalization, health care access, and transgender rights.

He served as a clerk for U.S. Court of Appeals for Judge M. Margaret McKeown of the Ninth Circuit, and Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

Clinical instruction plays an important role in legal education at Harvard Law School. Through the collective work of 44 different legal clinics and student practice organizations, HLS students learn the skills lawyers engage in under the supervision of clinical professors by practicing law on behalf of clients, while helping improve the lives of individuals in need through pro bono legal services. More than 80 percent of JD students take at least one clinic, and more than 40 percent take two or more. Existing HLS clinical programs focus on a wide range of legal areas, from cyber, tax and veterans’ law to human rights, immigration, health and housing law.

Dear Presidential Candidates: Yes, You Can Cancel All Student Debt on Day One

Dear Presidential Candidates: Yes, You Can Cancel All Student Debt on Day One

 

With the presidential primaries now in full swing, the issue of the nation’s whopping $1.5 trillion in student loan debt – and whether to cancel it – has become a popular topic, highlighting a growing consensus that the current system of debt-financed higher education is broken.

 

Senator Elizabeth Warren recently proposed a new idea pledging that if elected, she would direct her Department of Education to cancel student loan debt on day one of her presidency. This is certainly big news. But this idea is not so new to us, in fact we provided  legal analysis showing that it’s possible. We hope she will be the first of many candidates to pledge to follow through on this simple, but transformational, idea to help families across the country.

 

You’re probably wondering – can the President really enact mass student debt cancellation on such a broad scale on her own? The short answer is, yes. Legally, the power to create debt generally comes with it the power to cancel it. In this case, Congress granted the Secretary of Education a more specific authority to create and cancel debt owed under the federal student loan programs in the Higher Education Act.

 

So, yes, the President can direct the Secretary of Education to cancel all federal student loan debt – on day one.

 

The question then is – why?

 

At the Project on Predatory Student Lending, we’ve seen first-hand the difference it makes when students’ loans are cancelled. Jorge Villalba, a client who was cheated by the notorious for-profit college ITT Tech, struggled under massive fraudulent debt for years. After a long wait and a separate lawsuit in ITT Tech’s bankruptcy, he finally had his federal student loan debts cancelled. Almost immediately, Jorge’s credit score improved, he became eligible for lower interest rates to pay down his other debt, and he began digging himself out. He is proud to be planning his family’s future for the first time since his debt nightmare began.

 

Unfortunately, Jorge’s experience is all too rare.

 

Right now, there are over 44 million Americans with a combined $1.5 trillion in student debt.

 

Of those, we represent over a million borrowers who hold the worst kind of student debt: federal student loans taken out to attend for-profit colleges. For-profit colleges are notorious for preying on students – many of them low-income, veterans, single mothers, or people of color – with lies about quality training and job placements in order to pocket their federal student aid dollars. These schools provide little to no instruction and the majority of students we hear from report they are worse off today than before they went to school.

 

State Attorneys General have brought case after case against for-profit colleges that have committed massive fraud against students. On that basis alone, the federal government has the legal obligation to cancel students’ loans. We have even brought cases on behalf of students asserting that right, and won. But the government has refused to cancel the debts, and. Yet the Trump administration continues to ignore the facts and the law.

 

While the public has acknowledged student debt is at crisis levels that threaten the financial well-being of millions of Americans, there are still those candidates and elected officials who distance themselves from student loan cancellation. This is ill-advised, because research shows that mass loan cancellation will actually help stimulate the U.S. economy.

 

According to a study by the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, cancelling all student debt would increase our Gross National Product by one trillion dollars over 10 years. It would cause unemployment to go down, and it would create 1.5 million jobs per year. It would allow students to move out of their parents’ homes and start families, or even their own small businesses.

 

It’s time that more policymakers see loan cancellation for what it truly is: a non-partisan issue that would benefit students and the economy for generations to come.

 

Yes, the current President – or our next one – has the authority to cancel more than a trillion in debt held by millions of former students. And it has the obligation to cancel loans of students cheated by their schools.

 

That should be step one, on day one. Our students, and our country, can’t afford to wait a day longer.

Remembering Dale Kensinger

The Legal Services Center staff mourns the loss of our colleague, Dale Kensinger, longtime volunteer attorney in LSC’s Tax Clinic. This post celebrating Dale’s life and work was written by Tax Clinic Director Keith Fogg and was first published on Procedurally Taxing.


“At the tax clinic we are reminded daily of Dale’s work as we try to finish what he started with the clients he was representing. We were very fortunate to have him as a colleague and a role model for so many years.”

– Keith Fogg
Director, LSC Tax Clinic


Dale Kensinger

Dale Kensinger

On January 15, 2020, Dale Kensinger passed away, leaving a big hole at the Tax Clinic at Harvard Law School. You can find his obituary here. Until very recently Dale put in a few days a week doing volunteer work at the tax clinic, where he had his own dedicated office as part of the supervising team.

I first met Dale on March 14, 1977, when I started working for Chief Counsel, IRS in Branch 3 of the Refund Litigation Division. Dale was one of nine attorneys in the branch and was the second most senior. As a newly minted law school graduate, I remember thinking Dale, who was about 35 at the time, was really old. He was also extremely knowledgeable, generous with his time and kind. I was fortunate to start my legal career in a small branch of attorneys that included someone like Dale.

Dale moved on to the Kansas City office of Chief Counsel only nine months after I arrived. I moved on after just 18 months because of a reorganization that sent all of us to field offices across the country or to other National Office divisions. Dale worked in the Kansas City office from 1978 to 1999 where he became the Assistant District Counsel. Other than seeing him at the occasional training program, our paths essentially did not cross during these years though we both worked for the same large organization.

He retired in 1999 and founded the low-income taxpayer clinic at University of Missouri – Kansas City. He also became active in the ABA tax section and quickly rose to leadership in the low-income taxpayer committee. When I retired in 2007 and began teaching at Villanova, I reconnected with Dale through the ABA Tax Section. Then Dale retired again in 2009 to move from Kansas City to Boston to be near his daughter, Elizabeth. Following his retirement from the UMKC clinic, Dale became less active with the ABA but he was not finished helping low-income taxpayers.

My colleague at the Legal Services Center at Harvard, Dan Nagin, arrived in 2012 to start a veteran’s clinic and quickly found that he had many clients who needed tax assistance. Dan searched around for someone who could help these clients and connected with Dale. Dale worked with volunteer students from Harvard to service the veteran clients until Dan could convince the Harvard faculty to formally start a tax clinic. When the tax clinic formally started in 2015, I came to Harvard as a visitor to get it going and had the incredibly good fortune to have Dale there already to guide me once again.

Dale served three years in the air force during the Vietnam War. His time as a veteran, his kind and patient nature as well as his deep knowledge of tax practice, allowed him to fix the tax problems of many veterans, and others, during the five years I worked with him in the tax clinic at Harvard. He not only handled a substantial docket but he mentored students, fellows and me. The tax clinic misses him on many levels. His clients miss him deeply and several have commented to me over the past two months how much he helped them and how much they hoped and prayed for his recovery.

Because of his extraordinary service to low-income taxpayers in his retirement, Dale was selected in 2018 as the co-recipient of the Janet Spragens Pro Bono Award which is the only annual award given by the Tax Section. The ABA Tax Section describes the award and the selection criteria as follows:

This award was established in 2002 to recognize one or more individuals or law firms for outstanding and sustained achievements in pro bono activities in tax law. In 2007 the award was renamed in honor of the late Janet Spragens, who received the award in 2006 in recognition of her dedication to the development of low income taxpayer clinics throughout the United States.

Throughout the 50+ years of his career as a tax lawyer, Dale provided a model of caring about finding the right answer through his legal skills and caring about his clients with his interpersonal skills. At the tax clinic we are reminded daily of Dale’s work as we try to finish what he started with the clients he was representing. We were very fortunate to have him as a colleague and a role model for so many years. I will miss our regular talks about baseball, politics, difficult clients, difficult IRS employees and wonderful granddaughters. Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family at this time.

 

 

My Student Loan Truth: Jared’s South University Story

One year ago, the Dream Center chain of for-profit colleges collapsed, closing schools across the country – including the Art Institutes, Argosy University, and South University -and leaving tens thousands of students stranded and scammed out of an education. Jared Russell attended South University and was one of those students. 

This is Jared’s story.

 

How did you hear about South University and why did you decide to attend?

I was originally looking to find a commercial driver’s license and was reaching out to different companies for training. One company asked if I had ever considered going back to school. I expressed a slight interest and the representative I was talking to immediately transferred the call so we were on directly with a rep at South University. Within a few days, I was fully enrolled as a student in their Information Technology program. Looking back, I should have seen that as a red flag. It was weird how quickly the company put me in touch with South and how quickly they pushed through the enrollment process.

 

What did South tell you about the school’s programs or resources as you were enrolling?

I was told that South worked directly with corporations placing students in internships and that there was a good possibility to go from a placed internship to working full time. But what they don’t tell you are the real numbers. They don’t tell you that most students don’t experience any direct help from South, never mind get a job.

 

What were classes at South University like?

Most of my family is in IT, so when I would get assignments, I would show them the material. My family members were concerned and told me the programs, software, and materials they were using to teach were several years out of date – sometimes by decades. The information they were using wasn’t even relevant in the field anymore.

Sometimes, the assignments were 3-5 question “knowledge checks” with selectable answers. The format was terrible because it never revealed what question you got wrong, if you got one wrong. On top of that, I found questions whose “correct” answers were in fact wrong, and on a number of occasions, I pointed this out to instructors. Some took it seriously, but others pretty much blew it off as normal.

All of that prompted me to withdraw from South University last March, and I transferred to another university. Less than half of my credits transferred. I basically started over. The school wouldn’t accept any of the IT focused class credits.

 

How much debt did you accrue from attending South University? Have you started paying the loans back?

Between April of 2017 to March of 2019, I took out between $26,000 to $32,000. Before withdrawing, South owed me a refund, and after I left, they claimed that I owed them that money. They immediately sent their collections agency after me threatening that if I didn’t comply with the payments, they could do something with my current financial aid. That freaked me out because I can’t afford for them to mess with my financial aid again.

 

How has that debt impacted your life and decision making so far?

Because I’m still in school, not enough time has passed for me to be required to pay anything yet. But I’m constantly worried about what will happen and that it will somehow affect my ability to get additional loans. And I assume it will impact my credit at some point.

 

What would you say to the people who question whether loans from South and other predatory for-profit colleges should be cancelled?

I would say that I took out these loans under false pretenses. It was fraud, plain and simple. I was told I would receive a service that I never actually received. I was lucky that I’m a little older so I’ve had past experiences and family members that helped me realize things were not right. I caught the red flags eventually. I can’t imagine being 18 or 19 and having no idea what’s happening. I can’t imagine how terrifying it would be to get these calls from collection agencies. These schools harass you to comply and it’s scary.

My Student Loan Truth: Andrea’s Story

When the Department of Education seized Andrea’s tax refunds to pay for bogus student loan debt from Corinthian Colleges, there were devastating effects for her entire family.

 

Andrea Smith is a single mother living in Decatur, Michigan with three teenage children and a 5-month old granddaughter. She was scammed by Everest Institute, part of Corinthian Colleges, and has been working to overcome the damage the school caused ever since. This is her student loan truth.

 

Why did you decide to attend Everest?

Growing up, my family struggled financially. I was poor her my whole life, but I wanted things to be different for my own family and to show my children that a college degree could make a difference for a better life. Everest guaranteed job placement and a good career, so I enrolled in the medical assisting program.

 

What was your experience like trying to get a job after completing the Everest program?

It became clear pretty quickly that these guaranteed jobs did not exist and that they had lied to students. They promised us jobs they knew we would never get. We were overcharged and undereducated and then Everest left us high and dry.

 

How have the student loans from Everest impacted your life?

Here I am, 6 years later with nothing to show for my education and a lot of wasted time. My inability to pay off these loans has crippled me with terrible credit. As a single mom, you don’t have time to waste or money to spare.  To add insult to injury, they even took my tax refunds two years in a row, which was absolutely devastating. I was counting on those tax refunds, and not having them caused my world to come crashing down.

 

What happened when you found out the Department of Education would be taking your tax refunds to pay for your debt from Everest?

The first time my refund was taken in 2018, I had a plan to use it to leave an abusive relationship. Being financially dependent was part of the abuse. Without that $5,000 refund, I couldn’t leave. Eventually, through the help of friends and family, I was able to take my kids and move out of state, but it was an extremely stressful experience.

Then in 2019, I was unemployed and counting on the next tax refund of $9,000. I had a new grandbaby on the way and had rent to pay. But again, the Department of Education took my refund and I was back in a financial crisis. Fortunately, I was able to get assistance from a local church to help avoid eviction, but it wasn’t enough to keep us in our apartment. So I had to pack up and move back to Michigan with my family and pregnant daughter.

 

How did the financial stress impact your family?

My granddaughter was born seven weeks premature shortly after returning to Michigan and was hospitalized for weeks. I truly believe the financial stress on the whole family during that time was a major reason for the premature birth. There has been so much time lost and pain endured by my whole family because of this debt, and that can never be recovered.

 

What would you say to the Department of Education about your experience with this debt?

I wish they would remember that we are good, hardworking, people who just wanted to build a better life for ourselves and our families. These companies took advantage of us on the Department’s watch.  Changes need to be made so this situation can never happen to future generations.

 

Do you still believe in higher education as an opportunity for a better future?

Despite all the setbacks, I’ve always been able to get back on my feet. I’m not giving up. I have a new job (which has nothing to do with my medical assisting degree), I’m in a happy, stable relationship with my fiancé, and my granddaughter and children are healthy.  And I’m hopeful that for them, college can actually be an opportunity and not a burden.

LSC’s Toby Merrill ’11 named to the TIME 100 Next list

The founder of the Project on Predatory Student Lending is recognized for leading the fight against predatory for-profit colleges and fighting for the rights of over one million student borrowers.

toby merrill

Toby Merrill ’11, founder and director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending.
(Photo: Martha Stewart)

Toby Merrill ’11, founder and director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending at Harvard Law School, has been named to the first-ever TIME 100 Next list, an expansion of the TIME 100 list of the most influential people in the world. The list highlights 100 rising stars who are shaping the future of business, entertainment, sports, politics, health, science and activism, and more. Others on the TIME 100 Next list include Pete Buttigieg, Kyrsten Sinema, Aly Raisman. The full list and related tributes appear in the November 25, 2019 issue of TIME, available on newsstands on Friday, November 15, and now at time.com/next.

TIME 100 Next says of Merrill: “Years before student debt would be widely considered a national crisis—Americans now owe a combined $1.6 trillion—Toby Merrill started using litigation to fight what she calls the ‘worst-of-the-worst student debt,’ the kind incurred by students who enrolled in predatory for-profit colleges that burdened them with debt and provided them with worthless degrees.”

Read more at Harvard Law Today.