UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI SCHOOL OF LAW HEALTH RIGHTS CLINIC
10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION SPRING 2016
VOLUME 3 FALL 2014
ARMY COLONEL SECURES WIN FOR ARMY VETERAN WITH LEUKEMIA favorable ruling from a Federal Administrative Law Judge. In addition, we are currently challenging the VA’s determination that his leukemia did not result from his service.” Building on the success of Hosea Smith’s case and other veterans cases, for 2014-2015, the Health Rights Clinic has commenced its new Veterans Rights Project, which includes two EJW/AmeriCorps Attorneys, four EJW/ AmeriCorpsJD Fellows, and has established an official relationship with the new Student Veterans of America, Miami Law Chapter—in an effort to help Miami Veterans get the care and benefits they earned and deserve.
Attorney Ryan Foley, Veteran Hosea Smith and COL Noel C. Pace.
espite the recent roiling within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, third-year law student COL Noel Christian Pace, an Equal Justice Works (EJW)/AmeriCorpsJD Fellow in the Health Rights Clinic has been instrumental in helping veterans fight for their health care rights. As featured in the Miami Herald, NBC 6 Miami, LawDragon.com, and Miami Law Magazine, he represented an African-American Army Veteran who was told by VA officials that his leukemia was not caused by his military service. “I researched my client’s day-to-day duties in the Army
and learned that he had worked as a printing press operator/repairman and typewriter cleaner/washer from 19781981,” Pace said. “When I realized the types of chemicals my client was likely to have been exposed to and the potential effect on his health, I felt I was gaining ground.” Pace discovered that The National Institute of Health reported that chronic or prolonged exposure to benzene, used extensively in printing press operations, has been linked to bone marrow degeneration and leukemia. “With that, we put forward an ‘On the Record Review,’ which received a fully
STUDENT VETERANS OF AMERICA, MIAMI LAW CHAPTER ACTIVATES!
First Official meeting of the Newly Formed Student Veterans of America (SVA), Miami Law Chapter.
On September 11, 2014, 3L Colonel Noel C. Pace announced the formation of the Student Veterans of America (SVA), Miami Law Chapter. Pace who is a Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, Iraq campaign Veteran, and former intern in Miami Law’s Heath Rights Clinic and now EJW/AmeriCorps JD Veterans Right’s Fellow said this official chapter of the SVA national organization at Miami Law will bring veteran law stu-
99 $2 Over
MILLION Secured in benefits
dents and non-veteran law students together for fellowship, education, and service in the common goal of advocating for Veterans rights. In addition, the new SVA Miami Law Chapter students for the clinic’s Veterans Rights Project. On September 29, 2014, LT Ashley George, 2L and Florida National Guard Officer-Vice President, and Tara Irani, 2L-Secretary were elected to the first SVA Executive Board. COL Pace was elected President. The SVA, Miami Law Chapter has events planned for the remainder of the year starting with a “Lunch & Learn” regarding Veteran’s Law on October 23, 2014. All Miami Law students, staff, faculty, and alumni are welcome to join the SVA Miami Law Chapter. To become a SVA member or to learn more about SVA, or to RSVP for our upcoming events, please visit the SVA, Miami Law Chapter’s UM OrgSync page at: https://orgsync.com/97634/chapter. The Student Veterans of America, Miami Law Chapter is an official chapter of the Student Veterans of America. More information can be found at www.studentveterans.org.
MIAMILAW UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI SCHOOL OF LAW
Student Veterans of America
IMMIGRATION ADJUDICATIONS Lawful Permanent Resident Adjustments Approved
SSI CASES Over
Legal Service Hours Completed by Law Students
FELLOWS RECOVERED over 2
Students Trained to Become Lawyers
$750,000 in benefits for DISABLED VETERANS.
Jenna Feldman, Professor JoNel Newman, Ariel Gonzalez, Rebecca Greenfield, Associate Director Melissa Swain, Kanchi Doshi And Nicole Velazquez
2L CLINIC STUDENTS SAVE THE LIFE OF UNDOCUMENTED FARMWORKER AND WIN HOPE PUBLIC INTEREST INNOVATIVE SERVICE AWARD Ariel Gonzalez woke up the morning of January 15, 2014 feeling sick. Within hours he was doubled over in pain, had a severe headache, and was vomiting. He rode his bike, his only means of transportation, twenty minutes to the local clinic, Florida Community Health Centers, Inc., where he was diagnosed with abdominal pain and sent home with some medications and instructions to go to an emergency room if his condition worsened. Later that same day, feeling much worse, Gonzalez got a friend to drive him to a local public hospital ER where he was found to be in acute kidney failure. He was then rushed by ambulance to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center, in the next county, for emergency dialysis and hospitalized for a week. Had Miami Law’s Health Rights Clinic not stepped in and advocated on behalf of Gonzalez, a 35-year-old undocumented farmworker without a primary care physician or health insurance, he would have not seen the end of the Florida growing season. Gonzalez endured six weeks of 90-minute round trips to Lawnwood and was admitted only if he was in kidney failure, as the law students were frantically pushing to get him approved into a clinical dialysis program. On top of that, the condition left him listless, weak, and unable to go back to picking oranges and the majority of the medical instructions, both in writing and spoken, were in English, a language he doesn’t understand, read, or speak. Aside from only treating him when he was in kidney failure, the hospital’s other solution for Gonzalez’s life-threatening condition was to offer him “medical repatriation” —sending him back to his border town home of Matamoros, Mexico at the hospital’s expense. Even if Gonzalez survived the trip, he would be faced with certain death with no access to dialysis treatment in his hometown.
What Gonzalez didn’t know – because the patient navigator contracted by the hospital didn’t know – was that he qualified for federally funded Emergency Medicaid. This is when Health Rights Clinic students, Kanchi Doshi, Jenna Feldman, Rebecca Greenfield, and Nicole-Suzette Velazquez sprang into action and began firing off letters demanding the hospital and other agencies follow state law and apply for Emergency Medicaid and provide three-times-a-week dialysis for Gonzalez. That process would take 20 days of round-the-clock advocacy by the students, paralegal Vanessa Alpizar, clinic administrative assistant Albert Arguello, and the clinic’s two supervising attorneys, JoNel Newman and Melissa Swain. What the Health Rights Clinic students found was that not one of the agencies charged with securing emergency care for people like Gonzalez had the slightest knowledge of the benefits available or the protocol and process to apply. Lawnwood Regional Medical Center didn’t know how to apply for the aid, and Florida’s Department of Children and Families, charged with administering the state’s Medicaid program, was grossly unaware of their own process. The Health Rights Clinic has become adept at the process through their work with the immigrant community in Miami, through their advocacy at Jackson Memorial Hospital and public health clinics. Today, Gonzalez is receiving thrice-weekly outpatient dialysis at the Big Lake Kidney Center, just 10 minutes from the house where he lives with more than six other farmworkers. The process takes about forty hours a week, leaving him unable to work, even if he had the strength. His many roommates in the tidy, but run down house with a dirt yard, have allowed him to stay on in exchange for cleaning, cooking, and other chores. “If you think about the number of hours just our clinic expended on this one case, you can easily realize that hundreds Fall 2014
of farmworkers in Florida alone are dying because of lack of access to care,” said Swain. “We need to figure out how others can get access without this kind of intervention. Hospitals, clinics and agencies are not talking to one another. We know there is a problem. As law professors, we are training our students to answer the question: How can we make this system work?” But throughout Florida, says Newman, the process is “locked in a drawer somewhere…We took this one case to test whether the system created in 2010 was working,” said Newman. “We learned it wasn’t. This is an enormous and life-threatening hole in our public health safety net that needs to be plugged.” Word of Gonzalez’s success story spread rapidly. The clinic started receiving a multitude of requests for information regarding how they were able to do the seemingly impossible. What became increasingly apparent was the lack of understanding and communication that existed among the various players in the Emergency Medicaid arena. The clinic reformed their goals to address this concern, which led to the beginning of their advocacy efforts. The clinic enhanced and transferred their newly acquired individual client advocacy skill set to advocate for statewide reform. The team analyzed their steps to their successful outcome and developed a step-by-step policy guideline for future use to help the many other members of this neglected chronically ill population. This statewide advocacy became a multi-level outreach effort to implement a standardized, streamlined process.
“Working at the Health Rights Clinic has made me increasingly aware of how limited access to health care is in this country,” Greenfield said. “I have also become more aware of how many people are actually left out of the safety net the Affordable Care Act was supposed to create.”’ Throughout this experience, the clinic discovered the lack of understanding and knowledge of the policy has rendered the policy virtually obsolete. The team hopes to create a rulemaking petition to make the policy more readily accessible to DCF workers, community partners, and the public at large. The clinic’s tireless efforts and continued policy work has truly been groundbreaking. It has taught its members that patient advocacy at both the individual and policy levels is the ultimate tool for changing inefficient and unjust agency practices. It is evident that the team’s innovative work will have a lasting impact on health care access to this vulnerable and underserved population. Gold also interned at the Third District Court of Appeals and with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, U.S. Army, in Washington, D.C., and at the American Civil Liberties Union. In addition, she was a staff writer for the Jerusalem Post, conducting interviews on everything from business to arts in Hebrew. As a result of their efforts, the clinic students – Doshi, Feldman, Greenfield, and Velazquez – were awarded the Innovative Service in Public Interest Award, a recognition given by Miami Law HOPE Public Interest Resource Center to law students.
HEALTH RIGHTS EQUAL JUSTICE WORKS AMERICORPS LEGAL FELLOW SCORES BIG WIN ON BEHALF OF VETERANS By: Catharine Skipp Alissa Gold, JD ’13, worked in Miami Law’s Health Rights Clinic as an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow. Working exclusively with veterans, she won two disability claims with Social Security for two of her clients in her last two weeks on the job. One client, Lori Davis, was the victim of PTSD stemming from a rape while serving in the military. When Davis’s final award is tallied, she will likely receive $20,000 in back disability benefits and just under $2,000 Alissa Gold at Miami Veteran’s Affairs Hospital. a month going forward from the Social Security Administration. “I was about to be homeless,” said the single mother of two and Navy veteran. “I had been missing work, then had to stop. I was given short-term disability but the employer was 4
not very understanding and they even stopped that. I kept getting denied food stamps. “And then I met Alissa. Everyone respects the fact that you have an attorney. I was intimidated by the system and, in my situation, I would never be able to afford an attorney, even on a contingency basis. Alissa stepped in and everything turned around. Even when I would hit a wall, she was always reassuring me that we could handle it. “Now I can pay bills, feed my family, and cover the expenses from my medical conditions. She changed everything. Even my outlook is ‘I can do it!’ Alissa was so encouraging; I am profoundly grateful to her and the program.” Another client with advanced diabetes, Elias Santos, was awarded $20,000 in back benefits and will receive $1,555 a month going forward. “Alissa handled the worrying for me on my case,” said the 59-year-old Puerto Rican veteran. “I was desperate and depressed; I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t working and I had expenses. I was in a bad situation where I could not go on when my case was taken. “My disabilities have not changed but financially I have assistance. I am grateful for everything that Alissa has done for me,” he said. Gold served as Editor-in-Chief to the Psychology, Public Policy, and Law Journal at Miami Law, chaired the Communications and Outreach Committee of the Public Interest Leadership Board, and was a Miami Scholar. She served as a law
clerk with the United States Coast Guard where she drafted a lawful general order prohibiting the use or possession of “bath salts.” “Working with my veteran clients this past year was an incredibly rewarding experience. I learned so much about the trials and triumphs of military service, and the difficulties of living with chronic conditions in a world that is not built to accommodate them,” said Gold. “It’s an amazing feeling to get a call from a client who just got their first Social Security check and, for the first time in a long time, doesn’t have to choose between continuing to work a job they are no longer
physically able to do and feeding their family. No person who served our country should ever have to make that choice.” “I know that my years at Miami Law, both as a student and as an EJW AmeriCorps Legal Fellow, have well prepared me to continue to pursue my interests in public health and administrative law as I start my new position as Regulatory Counsel at the Food and Drug Administration,” said Gold. “I was honored and humbled to be able to help these incredibly brave veterans get the benefits that they so deserve.”
HEALTH RIGHTS CLINIC TEAM 2013-2014
Back L to R Erin Hoover, Jason Hayet, Kanchi Doshi, William Mueller, Casaundra Johnson, Niki Velazquez, Rebecca Greenfield, Alissa Gold, Noel Pace Front L to R Lisandra Estevez, Bethany Bandstra, Alexis Mena, Krystle Diaz, Jenna Feldman
Back L to R Andres Zornosa, Vanessa Joseph, Edgard Cespedes Front L to R Ivana Alvarez, Brenda Corrales
HEALTH RIGHTS SUMMER CLINIC TEAM 2014
VETERANS RIGHTS PROJECT Leah Weston is a lawyer and Equal
Justice AmeriCorps Fellow with the Health Rights Clinic who provides pro bono legal assistance to veterans seeking VA Disability Benefits, Social Security disability benefits, Public Benefits, Permanency Planning, and other legal matters, where appropriate. Born and raised in Miami, Leah is a double ‘Cane, receiving her B.A. summa cum laude in 2008 and her J.D. magna cum laude in 2014 from the University of Miami. During her time in law school, she was a Miami Scholar and worked for the Community Justice Project of Florida Legal Services, a unique community lawyering practice that provides legal representation for grassroots community groups at the forefront of social change in Miami. When not engaged in public interest lawyering, Leah is an avid cyclist and was a radio personality on WVUM 90.5 FM (DJ Swanky), both as a law student and an undergraduate.
Ryan Foley (J.D. 2013) is now in his
second year as an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow. Foley was a member of the Health Rights Clinic as a third year law student and during his time in the Clinic he worked extensively with low-income and disabled veterans. He served as the Student Attorney Team Leader of the clinic’s operations at the Miami VA Medical Center where he helped manage legal interns and provided direct legal assistance to veteran clients. His experiences in the Clinic pushed Foley to look for a way to continue his work on behalf of veterans after graduation. In July 2013 the Health Rights Clinic was awarded a grant to fund two Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellows dedicated to providing legal services to the South Florida veteran community. The opportunity to return to the Clinic in this capacity was too good for Foley to pass up. Foley began the Fellowship in September 2013 and after a successful first year where he secured over $600,000 in benefits and remains just as passionate about his mission to help our nation’s veterans as when he started. Foley credits his involvement in the Health Rights Clinic as his inspiration for wanting to make a positive impact with his law degree.
The HEALTH RIGHTS CLINIC is a Medical-Legal Partnership operated in collaboration with the Miller School of Medicine. The Clinic primarily represents underserved client populations and works on cases pro bono. REPRESENTATION IS FOCUSED ON THE FOLLOWING PRIORITY AREAS:
Social Security & Public Benefits
The Clinic is one of the first Medical-Legal clinics in the country to offer diversified support for underserved populations with a focused, coordinated care model targeting unmet legal, medical, psychiatric and social support needs. MAKE A GIFT TO THE HEALTH RIGHTS CLINIC TODAY! Join the effort to create a lasting impact on the communities served and help to expand legal resources in low-income and underserved communities
ONLINE GIVING: www.law.miami.edu/giving To mail your GIFT Yes! I/We______________________________________________________________________support the University of Miami School of Law Health Rights Clinic. Please print name(s) as they should appear for recognition purposes.
Enclosed is a gift of $__________________________or a pledge of $________________________to the Law School, payable over_______________________ years, payment commencing on________________(month/day/year). Corporate Matching Gift: Many companies match employee contributions. My employe will match my gift. Employer’s Name_______________________________________________________________________________ Please obtain form from your personnel office and include with your gift. Method of payments: Check enclosed (payable to University of Miami School of Law) I prefer to pay by credit card Amex Discover MasterCard Visa Card Number____________________________________________________________Exp. Date.____________________ Name on card_______________________________________________________________ Signature____________________________________________________________________ Please bill my credit card in_____montly installments of $_______________________ starting___/___/___and ending on ___/___/___ You may cancel your monthly gifts by informing the University of Miami School of Law Health Rights Clinic in writing. For more information on Miami Law visit www.law.miami.edu or call Georgina A. Angones, Assistant Dean, Advancement 1.866.99UMLAW
MIAMILAW UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI SCHOOL OF LAW
Health Rights Clinic
A MEDICAL-LEGAL PARTNERSHIP WITH THE MILLER SCHOOL OF MEDICINE
1311 Miller Dr., Room F303 Coral Gables, FL 33146 Fall 2014
Health Rights Clinic 1311 Miller Drive, F303 Coral Gables, Florida 33146
NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION U.S. POSTAGE PAID MIAMI, FLORIDA PERMIT 438
10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION SPRING 2016
BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN PATIENT AND CLIENT Health Rights Clinic University of Miami School of Law 1311 Miller Drive, Room F303 Ph: 305.284.3951 | Fax: 305.284.6407 www.law.miami.edu/clinics/healthrights
MIAMILAW Health Rights Clinic UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI SCHOOL OF LAW
A MEDICAL-LEGAL PARTNERSHIP WITH THE MILLER SCHOOL OF MEDICINE