2014 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Tiffany Kelley

Tiffany Kelley

Name of Host Organization: National Veterans Legal Services Program
City, State: Washington, District of Columbia
Issue area: Veterans' Rights, Disability Rights
Sponsors: Raytheon Company; Kirkland & Ellis LLP

The Project

Tiffany worked to tackle the unmet legal needs of veterans who have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other mental health conditions due to military sexual trauma (MST) by creating a national pro bono program to represent those veterans on their disability compensation claims before the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
A large number of military personnel are survivors of sexual assaults committed by other service members. The most commonly diagnosed mental disorder for those who have experienced a sexual assault in the military is PTSD. Tragically, because many of these survivors were fearful of reporting the assaults while they were in service, many veterans who suffer from PTSD or other mental health conditions as a result of a military sexual assault face an exceptionally high hurdle in obtaining disability compensation and adequate treatment from the VA. These survivors can prevail on their VA claims if they secure an effective advocate who is able to take the time to thoroughly review all military medical and personnel records and develop the evidence needed to support their VA claims. Unfortunately, there is currently a severe shortage of expert pro bono representation available.
Fellowship Highlights: 
In the past two years, Tiffany has:
• Established the overarching standard operating procedures for the MST program, which is now a signature program of NVLSP
• Placed 41 cases for survivors of MST with pro bono VA-accredited attorneys
• Created a complete body of training materials on MST and trained approximately 70 pro bono attorneys
• Assisted 6 veterans in obtaining VA disability compensation for a mental disorder due to MST and 1 in obtaining temporary disability retirement from the military
• Assisted 14 veterans in obtaining low-cost private mental health evaluations from university psychology training clinics at 10 different universities • Given brief services and/or referrals to 207 veterans
Where are they now?: 
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Tiffany plans to:
• Continue in public interest through work with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a Regulatory Counsel.
• Provide pro bono assistance to underserved populations throughout her legal career

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