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Social Security Disability 2019: From Administrative Proceedings to Federal Practice


Speaker(s): Anne K. Callagy, Brenden Ross, Carol Santangelo, Ernie Collette, German Castaneda, Montel Cherry, Sandra M. Gresl, Steven Godeski
Recorded on: Mar. 15, 2019
PLI Program #: 251553

Anne Callagy has been at The Legal Aid Society since 1993. From 1993 – 2007, she was a staff attorney in the neighborhood offices in Staten Island, Brooklyn and the Bronx in the areas of housing and public benefits.  Since 2007, she has been the Supervising Attorney for the government benefits unit in The Legal Aid Society's Bronx Neighborhood Office. She is currently the Director of the Benefits Practice at Legal Aid. Ms. Callagy trains and supervises legal services and pro bono attorneys in government benefits practice, including Social Security disability benefits hearings and appeals. Ms. Callagy taught as an adjunct professor in the Urban Law Clinic at New York Law School during 2006-2007.  She graduated from Boston College and the New York University School of Law. 


Brenden Ross is a Staff Attorney in the Mental Health Law Project (MHLP) at Mobilization for Justice, Inc. MHLP supports people with mental health disabilities by seeking to prevent homelessness, stabilize income, promote recovery, and maximize community integration.  Before joining MHLP, Mr. Ross was a Staff Attorney on Mobilization for Justice’s Housing Project, where he defended low-income tenants in eviction proceedings.  Prior to that, Mr. Ross served as a Pro Bono Scholar on Mobilization for Justice’s Government Benefits Project.  Mr. Ross received a law degree from Brooklyn Law School.


Ernie Collette is a Senior Staff Attorney in the Government Benefits Project at Mobilization for Justice. For over the past decade has represented clients in a range of matters, including Public Assistance, SNAP, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security benefits. He also implemented the Immigration Law Project at Mobilization for Justice and has currently represented families and individuals in over the past five years in both family-based claims and humanitarian-based claims for immigration relief including U-Visa, T-visa, DACA, and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. 

He is a graduate of Seattle University School of Law and Gonzaga University.


German Castaneda is a paralegal in the Government Benefits Project at Mobilization for Justice, Inc. He assists individuals who are experiencing issues with their SNAP, Public Assistance, and Medicaid. He also represents clients at Social Security hearings. Additionally, he is a B.I.A. accredited representative and assists client with obtaining immigration benefits. He earned his B.A. in History from DePaul University.


Montel A. Cherry is the Supervising Attorney of the Government Benefits Project and Workplace Justice Project at Mobilization for Justice, Inc. GBP assists individuals with legal problems relating to Public Assistance, SNAP/Food Stamps, Medicaid/Medicare, and Disability Benefits. This assistance includes representing clients in state and federal courts, at administrative hearings, as well as advocating for clients at the applicable government agency. GBP also serves immigrants in various aspects of obtaining appropriate status including obtaining green cards, adjusting status, and obtaining citizenship. GBP conducts monthly on-site clinics with various community-based organizations. WJP assists low-wage and immigrant workers. WJP provides advice, counsel, and representation to workers who face unsafe or unhealthy working conditions, including workers’ compensation claims, medical leave, and disability accommodations. WJP also helps individuals re-enter the workforce by representing them in hearings to obtain licenses to work. GBP and WJP schedule “know your rights” trainings for the community at large.  

Prior to coming to Mobilization for Justice, Inc., Ms. Cherry was a Disability Law Specialist at Manhattan Legal Services, where she represented adults and children with physical and mental impairments in appealing their denial of disability benefits.  Initially she was hired at the former Harlem Legal Services, as a staff attorney for the government benefits unit specializing in both public assistance and disability law.  She also worked as a decisions editor at the New York Law Journal. Ms. Cherry received her J.D. from CUNY School of Law and a B.A. in Sociology and African Studies from SUNY Stony Brook.  


Sandra Gresl is a Senior Staff Attorney in the Mental Health Law Project (MHLP) at Mobilization for Justice, Inc. MHLP supports people living with mental illness by seeking to prevent homelessness, stabilize income, promote recovery, and maximize community integration. Before joining MFJ, Ms. Gresl worked with both legal service and community based organizations in Seattle, Washington on issues related to intimate partner violence and immigration. She received a law degree from University of Washington School of Law.


Carol Santangelo is a Supervising Attorney at The Legal Aid Society, overseeing a city-wide initiative to assist public assistance beneficiaries in accessing federal disability benefits. Before that, Carol was a Staff Attorney in The Legal Aid Society’s Health Law Unit, during which time she was is a steering committee member of the Coalition to Protect the Rights of New York's Dually Eligible, an active member of the Medicaid Matters New York Managed Care Workgroup and the Public Program Workgroup, and was co-chair of the New York State Health Law Taskforce. Carol is a member of  New York City Bar Association’s Mental Health Law Committee; she holds a Master’s Degree in Nursing and a Certificate in Bioethics and Medical Humanities.


Steven Godeski has been at The Legal Aid Society since 1986 in the Bronx Neighborhood Office specializing in the area of public benefits.   Mr. Godeski taught as an adjunct professor in the City University of New York Law School during 1997-1998.  He graduated from City University of New York Law School.