By Wendy Shparago Cappelletto, CAP, and David Godfrey, Fellow
Jen brings passion, integrity, and enthusiasm to everything she does.
You may first encounter Jennifer (Jen) VanderVeen, CELA, CAP, Fellow, at a NAELA conference walking down a hallway engrossed in looking at her phone. At that moment, she is probably not checking work emails, but instead hunting for “Pokémon Go” figures. It is one of her hobbies that she particularly enjoys when visiting a new city. Her ever-present Mickey Mouse watch is just one sign of her love for everything Disney. She never misses an opportunity to visit her happy place, Walt Disney World.
Jen is a partner at Tuesley Hall Konopa, LLP, a 13-lawyer firm in South Bend, Indiana. She joined the firm in 2013 after working at two other elder law firms in Indiana. Her areas of practice are elder law, estate planning and administration, and business law. She was certified as an elder law attorney by NELF in 2006 and was invited to join NAELA’s Council of Advanced Practitioners in 2016.
Jennifer was born and raised in Flushing, Michigan, just outside of Flint. Growing up, she spent a considerable amount of time helping out in her family’s accounting practice. Due to her institutional knowledge, some of her NAELA colleagues have mistakenly assumed that she has an accounting degree.
Jen attended Albion College for her undergraduate program. It was at Albion College that she met her future husband Jay VanderVeen. Jen and Jay married after graduating from Albion and moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, for Jennifer to attend the University of Michigan Law School. After law school, Jay and Jen moved to Indiana where Jay attended graduate school and they remained in the South Bend area when Jay was hired as a professor at Indiana University at South Bend. Jay is currently a department head in the Sociology and Anthropology Departments. Jennifer is licensed to practice in both Michigan and Indiana. She is also a member of both the Michigan and Indiana NAELA Chapters.
While Jennifer did not start out in the field of elder law, she landed at her first elder law firm within her first three years of practice. Once she started practicing in the field of elder law, she realized that the area was a good fit for her.
An Enthusiastic and Active Supporter of NAELA
Jen was first introduced to NAELA by a partner at her former firm, Scott Severns, a NAELA Past President. She joined NAELA and attended her first conference in 2003, where she was mentored through the meeting by Julia Merkt, a former NAELA board member.
After having the opportunity to be an active participant at her first NAELA meeting, she sought out volunteer opportunities in NAELA. She became an enthusiastic volunteer, starting out in the Tax Section Steering Committee as well as the Planning Committees for several meetings. She was the chair of the Tax Section from 2009 to 2012. She served as a co-chair for the 2012 National Aging and Law Institute and the 2015 NAELA Summit. She was chair of the 2013 UnProgram. Jen is a regular presenter at conferences on a variety of topics. Jen was very involved in the major restructuring of NAELA’s educational program through her involvement with the Programs and Publications Steering Committee. She was selected for the Board of Directors in 2012.
Passion, Integrity, and Enthusiasm
Passion, integrity, and enthusiasm are three main characteristics that immediately come to mind when we think of Jennifer in both her professional and personal life. She is a dedicated attorney who takes a great deal of pride in the quality of her work. Her tremendous work ethic carries over into all of her NAELA endeavors.
Jennifer is never content to just do an average job. Throughout her tenures on the NAELA Board of Directors and the Executive Committee, she has worked tirelessly with her colleagues to personify and advance the tenets of NAELA. She is also passionate about encouraging new members of NAELA to become more involved in the Academy.
Whether she is organizing and leading a social event, such as a trivia contest or karaoke, or having a conversation with a first-time attendee at a reception, Jennifer is a notable presence at NAELA conferences. Her attitude and enthusiasm are contagious; she is relentless in encouraging members to volunteer and expand their involvement to help shape the future of NAELA.
Outside of NAELA, Jennifer manages to balance work and family. She loves attending live concerts and theater with her family, and it is said that Jimmy Buffet’s music is the soundtrack of her life.
Jennifer enjoys crocheting and crocheted scarves for every member of the NAELA Board and NAELA staff last year. Jennifer and Jay and their 16-year-old son Ben share many interests together including spending time on Disney properties, “Star Wars” movies, “Dr. Who,” “Pokémon Go,” and musical theater. In addition, they are avid Chicago Cubs and Detroit Red Wings fans.
About the Authors
Wendy Shparago Cappelletto, CAP, is NAELA President Elect. She is a supervising attorney with the Office of the Public Guardian of Cook County in the Adult Guardianship Division. David Godfrey, Fellow, is NAELA Treasurer. He is a senior attorney to the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging in Washington, D.C.