Do your homework before signing legal contracts | News, Sports, Jobs
Hundreds of calls have flooded Veterans Services offices in Trumbull and Mahoning counties in recent weeks, prompted largely by advertisements placed by attorneys seeking clients for lawsuits they want to take action against the government over contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
Officials at the two local Veterans Services offices believe the ads are misleading and that some of the lawyers featured in them could be seen as predators.
“TV Ads Harm Veterans and Lead Them Down a Path of Misinformation,” Herm Breuer, executive director of the Trumbull County Veterans Services Commission, told our reporter recently.
Based on the number of calls to local Veterans Affairs offices, we are concerned that many more will simply sign on the dotted line without doing their due diligence first.
We warn all veterans and viewers to be very careful and to proceed slowly before jumping into any deals triggered by this type of advertising. To put it simply, do your homework.
In this case, the phones of local veterans services commissions began ringing soon after commercials and infomercials began clogging the airwaves. The ads also appeared on radio and the Internet, in direct mail and other forms of advertising.
Not coincidentally, last month President Joe Biden signed Sgt. First class Heath Robinson honoring our promise to address the PACT (Comprehensive Toxics) Act.
Among other things, the law extends health care and Veterans Affairs benefits to veterans exposed to burning fireplaces and other toxic substances. Burn pits have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of chemicals, cans, tires, plastics, medical equipment and human waste. Previously, about 70% of disability claims involving pit exposure were denied by the VA before the bill was approved.
Now the law directs VA officials to assume that certain respiratory illnesses and cancers were linked to exposure to fireplaces and to help veterans get disability benefits without having to prove that sickness was the result of their service.
The bill also contains a provision allowing veterans – and their dependents – stationed at Camp Lejeune, a Marine base in Jacksonville, North Carolina, or Marine Corps Air Station New River between August 1, 1953 and on December 31, 1987, the rare ability to directly sue the federal government for civilian damage caused by contaminated water at the base. The water was contaminated with chemicals used as degreasers, dry cleaning solvents and for other purposes.
Previously, veterans and their family members who lived at Camp Lejeune were only allowed to receive financial assistance for health care for specific health conditions.
While the new law may be justified, many reactions from lawyers and others seeking to find clients who can pay them a percentage of any legal compensation may not be.
“With the ads, we are getting hundreds of calls from relatives of those who were at Camp Lejeune asking if they are eligible to sue,” Susan Krawchyk, executive director of the Mahoning County Veterans Services Commission, said. “I would hate to see someone go to a lawyer because they would lose money. If there is a valid claim, we can help them. But we receive a lot of invalid claims.
Breuer and Krawchyk warn that due to attorney fees, veterans could end up losing money. They strongly advise veterans and their families to do their research, call their offices, and seek out highly reputable attorneys before signing any legal contracts.
We urge veterans and, frankly, anyone who sees ads that they believe affect them on other legal issues to do their due diligence. They don’t have to immediately pick up the phone and dial the number they see in a TV commercial.
Veterans, in particular, should not sign a warrant with an attorney unless they understand what they are signing.
Call the local Veterans Services Board for assistance or contact a reputable local attorney. Most importantly, do your homework before signing anything.