Cherilyn Hansen

  • Hosted by Bay Area Legal Services
  • Sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP, The Florida Bar Foundation
  • Service location Tampa, Florida
  • Law school Stetson University College of Law
  • Issue area Veterans' Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2016
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Florida has the second highest population of homeless veterans in the country, and St. Petersburg has the highest number in the state. Nearly 1,000 homeless veterans live in the Tampa Bay area, with more than half of those in St. Petersburg. Tampa Bay has two of the largest VA hospitals in the country–Bay Pines VA Healthcare System and the Haley Veterans’ Hospital. Many veterans come to this area because they know they can get medical help. A significant contributing factor to veterans living in poverty is their inability to navigate the often complex and overburdened VA system. In addition, over 50% of homeless veterans have disabilities, including PTSD, which is compensable under the VA but can be difficult to prove. Merely completing and filing a disability claim is difficult, but many veterans face additional challenges stemming from sometimes debilitating disabilities. There is a vast need throughout the country for more attorneys to help veterans with their claims, and this problem is particularly acute in the Tampa Bay area.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Cherilyn has:

  • Established a Medical Legal Partnership at the Bay Pines VA, hosting a walk-in clinic once a week for veterans’ legal issues
  • Provided full representation to 60 veterans and assisted over 500 veterans with advice, brief services, and referrals
  • Connected with over 20 local non-profit organizations and social service providers to create a network of referrals for veterans’ social and legal issues

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Cherilyn plans to:

  • Continue representing veterans in their disability claims, discharge upgrades, and various other civil legal issues at Bay Area Legal Services
  • Create a VA MLP externship to recruit more law students to help with cases, as well as develop materials for the project
  • Form additional partnerships and grow existing ones to further develop a strong referral network among social service providers to cover the wide array of veterans’ social, psychological, and legal needs
  • Ensure this project is sustainable and replicable by applying for grants and creating a body of training materials to help teach others about this type of legal work

Meet Other Fellows Like Cherilyn

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Sarah Schwartz

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