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Advocating for Veterans: The Basics on VA Benefits, Discharge Upgrades and Veteran Cultural Competency 2020


Speaker(s): Amy Rose, Holly L. Christian, Margaret Kuzma, Maureen Siedor, Megan O'Leary, Millie VandenBroek, Nicole M. Perez, Tyler Solorio, Victor Inzunza
Recorded on: Oct. 30, 2020
PLI Program #: 274970

Margaret Kuzma is an Attorney in the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School and a lead author of the Military Discharge Upgrade Legal Practice Manual (ABA, 2021). Previously, she directed the Veterans Inclusion Project and the Discharge Upgrade Practice at the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center. She has been a Visiting Clinical Lecturer with the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School, and she co-founded the Veterans Law Project at Quinnipiac University School of Law. Prior to becoming a public interest attorney, Ms. Kuzma ran the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program for Fort Benning and U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder.

 



Tyler Solorio is a Policy Analyst with Swords to Plowshares. They provide outreach and technical assistance to community-based veteran service agencies, present Combat to Community cultural curriculum, and conduct research on an array of veterans’ issues. They graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy Studies from DePaul University. Tyler spent six years in the U.S. Army National Guard. They are an OEF veteran who deployed to Afghanistan in 2011.


Amy Rose is the Managing Attorney at Swords to Plowshares, a community-based non-profit that provides legal aid, housing, and social services to homeless and low-income veterans in the San Francisco Bay Area. Prior to her work at Swords, Ms. Rose was the Legal Director at the ACLU of Nevada where she fought for the civil rights and liberties of Nevadans though impact litigation, policy advocacy, and community education  Ms. Rose also spent several years practicing plaintiff-side employment law, advocating on behalf of employees facing discrimination and harassment in the workplace. She holds a J.D from the College of William & Mary and a B.A. in Economics and Political Science from the University of California, Davis. She is a member of the State Bar of Nevada.


Holly L. Christian is the Pro Bono Manager and Staff Attorney at Swords to Plowshares. She previously worked for the American Bar Association where she served as the Veterans Pro Bono Coordinator and Chief Counsel to the Standing Committee on Armed Forces Law and Coordinating Committee on Veterans Benefits and Services. Holly is a graduate of DePaul University College of Law and the University of Dayton. Holly also holds multiple leadership roles in Phi Alpha Delta, a professional law fraternity. She is barred in Illinois.


Maureen “Mo” Siedor directs Swords to Plowshares’ Legal Services Unit which provides assistance and legal representation to homeless and low-income veterans on their veterans’ benefits and military discharge upgrade cases. She originally joined Swords’ legal team in 2014.

Prior to serving as Legal Director, Mo worked at the Center for Veterans’ Advancement at Public Counsel and the Homeless Veterans Project of Inner City Law Center. She began her legal careers as a staff attorney at DNA-People’s Legal Services providing legal assistance to victims of domestic violence on the Navajo Nation.

She is a graduate of Boston College Law School and Barnard College of Columbia University, and is a member of the State Bars of California and Colorado.


Megan O’Leary is the Shartsis Friese LLP Public Interest Fellow at Swords to Plowshares.  Her fellowship is focused on providing direct legal services to veterans who are involved with the justice system.  Megan works with veterans who are currently incarcerated, involved with the San Francisco Veterans Justice Court, and other justice-involved veterans in the San Francisco Bay Area.  She is a graduate of the University of California, Hastings College of the Law and Saint Mary’s College of California.


Millie VandenBroek serves as Policy Counsel and Discharge Upgrade Attorney at Connecticut Veterans Legal Center. She served previously as CVLC’s Howard R. Udell Fellow in Veterans Justice specializing in VA benefits law. Millie has taught in the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School as a Visiting Clinical Lecturer. Prior to joining CVLC, she worked as an Assistant Public Defender in Baltimore City’s Mental Health Court, in the litigation department of a large firm, and as the director of an early-intervention children’s mental health initiative. Millie holds a JD from Georgetown University Law Center and an MPH from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.


Nicole is the managing attorney of the Veterans Justice Center at Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) is a nonprofit law firms that protects and advances the rights of the most underserved – leveling the playing field and ensuring that everyone can have access to the justice system.  Every year, LAFLA provides free, high-quality legal services to more than 100,000 people living in poverty across Greater Los Angeles. LAFLA’s Veterans Justice Center advocates for  Veterans to obtain life-sustaining income, health, and housing benefits, and rebuild their lives through our full scope of critical legal services.  We believe that all Veterans deserve a steady source of income, a safe and stable home, and access to the healthcare that they need to thrive. We also believe that Veterans who have tickets, criminal convictions, and less-than-honorable discharges deserve a fresh start.  LAFLA’s unique combination of neighborhood offices, self-help centers at courthouses, and domestic violence clinics puts LAFLA on the front lines in vulnerable communities, and at the forefront of change.

As a disabled woman from a marginalized Latino community, Nicole has dedicated her career to fighting for economic and racial justice. At LAFLA, Nicole works passionately alongside advocates and Veterans themselves to secure government benefits, prevent Veteran homelessness and access civil justice. With a law degree and Masters in Social Work, Nicole practices holistic advocacy for Veterans and their families, utilizing the support of pro bono, community, and social service partners. Nicole obtained her graduate degrees in Law and Social Work from UCLA, her undergraduate degrees in Social Welfare and Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley, and her “degree” in life skills from her kind and hardworking single father Fred Perez. Nicole began her legal career as a Skadden Fellow in homelessness and government benefits advocacy at LAFLA. She founded the first Veterans law school clinic in Los Angeles at Loyola Law School in 2010 and currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Legal Issues Committee of the LSC Veterans Task Force.


Victor Inzunza is a Policy Analyst with Swords to Plowshares. He presents Combat to Community® cultural competency curriculum and provides outreach and technical assistance to other community-based veteran services agencies. Victor graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in English from University of the Pacific and earned his MFA in writing from University of San Francisco.

Victor spent four years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is an OIF veteran who served two tours of duty in 2003 and 2004. He has been active in the veteran community since 2008, focusing on access to education for California veterans. He served as president for the Student Veterans of America chapter at University of the Pacific.