2014 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Devin Bissman

Devin Bissman

Name of Host Organization: Swords to Plowshares
City, State: San Francisco, California
Issue area: Health Care/Medical-Legal Partnership, Veterans' Rights Veterans' Rights
Sponsors: Bill Brockett Public Interest Fellowship

The Project

Devin provided legal assistance, to veterans with a focus on National Guard and Reserve Veterans via a legal clinic partnership with the San Francisco VA Medical Center.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
More than half of all Global War on Terrorism veterans served in the National Guard (NG) or the Reserves. This citizen soldier population, which includes more than 500,000 men and women, is returning home with significant physical and mental health problems. Unlike their active duty counterparts, NG and Reserve members quickly return to their respective civilian employment and are not tied to large military bases. This quick disconnect, from military service causes these veterans, to have more difficulty accessing needed physical and mental health care, from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other providers. This project seeks to provide current and former NG and Reserve members much needed assistance in accessing VA benefits and healthcare.
Fellowship Highlights: 
In the past two years, Devin has:
• Provided advice on VA benefits and discharge upgrades, to over 200 veterans at the San Francisco VA Medical Center.
• Successfully obtained VA benefits for over 30 veterans.
• Assisted several veterans with less than honorable discharge gain access, to previously denied VA care and benefits.
• Helped several homeless veterans obtain VA benefits, which enabled them afford housing within the community.
• Restored dignity to veterans, by helping them obtain Honorable discharges, after they were provided less than honorable discharges due to their sexuality.
• Worked with VA health providers, to ensure continued treatment for a veteran’s terminal illness, after the VA sought to revoke eligibility.
Where are they now?: 
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Devin plans to:
• Continue hosting the legal clinic at the San Francisco VA Medical Center for Swords to Plowshares.
• Continue operating the legal clinic at the VA for many years to come. Although we have been able to assist hundreds of veterans with their claims for benefits, the fight to ensure that veterans receive proper care and benefits is still in its infancy.

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