Milo Vieland

The Project

Milo’s (he/him/his) project will provide holistic legal representation to low-income transgender clients in Chicago facing insurance coverage denials for transition-related medical care.

Transgender people face significant barriers to obtaining transition-related healthcare. Despite the overwhelming consensus of medical associations and clinicians that transition-related healthcare is effective, medically necessary, and often life-saving, transgender patients must navigate a complex and ever-changing array of health insurance policies to obtain coverage for surgery, while simultaneously attempting to update their names and gender markers on identification documents. Furthermore, the poverty rate for transgender people is 29%, twice that of the general population. Lack of economic security compounds issues of access to medical care for low-income transgender people, who also face barriers to public assistance access. Without comprehensive legal assistance across these issues, many transgender people are barred from essential medical care, economic security, and full civic participation.

Milo’s experiences fighting for his own and others’ healthcare have shown him the power of legal advocacy to create meaningful change in people’s lives.

Fellowship Plans

During his Fellowship, Milo will utilize the medical-legal partnership between Legal Council for Health Justice and Howard Brown Health to provide holistic legal services to transgender clients. He will represent clients facing insurance denials for transition-related healthcare. He will offer legal assistance with the processes of name and gender marker changes on vital records. Additionally, he will advocate for clients’ economic security by providing comprehensive legal assistance with public benefits.

Media

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Trans people are in the practice of relying on each other for access to medical care and other resources. This project is an extension of that mutual support.

Milo Vieland /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Matthew (Matt) Halverson advocates on behalf of individuals facing the criminal justice system in San Diego County to ensure that their health needs are addressed through direct representation, education, and systems-level advocacy.

In 2018, about 200,000 Californians were incarcerated and 400,000 were under community supervision, with an estimated 36,000 Californians released from custody annually. Moreover, over a million Californians are admitted to and released from jails per year. When incarcerated, these individuals are either suspended or terminated from their Medicaid (“Medi-Cal”) benefits and are not automatically reinstated into their healthcare benefits. Furthermore, these individuals face many health issues while incarcerated. Individuals released from prison face multiple challenges to maintain healthcare and experience prevalent issues, including the coordination of health and behavioral services in the community, transitions between programs and services (probation/parole, county behavioral health and health services agencies, and others), gaps in eligibility when transitioning between programs, and administrative barriers to entering and/or reinstating healthcare benefits (application processing, eligibility, timeline requirements, and other administrative burdens).

Fellowship Plans

To address these issues, Matt will provide direct representation for health access issues and collaborate with other organizations such as the Public Defender’s Office to set up referral processes, develop training and guidance, and create educational materials that address the specific healthcare access issues these individuals face. Matt will also educate the community by developing self-help materials and workshops.

Prior to law school, I worked in healthcare and social services witnessing the gross disparities in healthcare and social services and how that lack of access harmed members of my local community. Everyone deserves access to healthcare and mental health services.

Matt Halverson /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Majesta-Doré’s (she/her/hers) project will partner Legal Aid Justice Center with VCU Health System’s Emergency Department and nearby low-fee community clinics to combat health-harming legal needs that perpetuate health disparities in Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia.

Healthcare access is fraught for patients with low-income, non-citizen status, and other marginalized identities. Health Justice requires removing discriminatory barriers and providing broader access to legal tools before health-harming legal needs reach crisis level.

Despite VCU Health System consistently ranking in the top 100 medical centers in the country, Richmond and Petersburg County rank at the bottom in the 2021 health rankings. Social determinants of health, such as the high eviction rate, barriers in stable access to care, and access to lifeline benefits such as TANF and SNAP all contribute to these outcomes. Medical-legal partnerships improve patient outcomes, overall wellness, and reduce health disparities.

Majesta-Doré’s experience living with chronic illnesses and navigating the complicated U.S. healthcare system strengthens her resolve to combat barriers to stable access to care.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Majesta-Doré will establish a medical-legal partnership with VCU Health System to provide wrap-around legal services to patients in the Emergency Department. In the MLP, Majesta-Doré will counsel patients on health insurance appeals, appeal improper denials of public benefits, and train medical providers to spot legal needs warranting referral. Majesta-Doré will also work with community partners to provide community education about access to care.

Social determinants of health can change the trajectory of someone’s entire life. No one should have to choose between two life essentials because they need healthcare.

Majesta-Doré Legnini /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Audrey is advocating for gender-based violence survivors by expanding the Sanctuary for Families EMPOWER Center, making it the first Medical-Legal Partnership in New York City to provide family law representation to survivors of sex and labor trafficking.

Estimates for the population of human trafficking survivors in New York City are in the thousands, yet only 338 cases were reported and confirmed in 2020. One of the biggest reasons for this disparity is that survivors fear that, by coming forward, they may risk violent retaliation from their abusers and losing custody of their children. New York’s child welfare system disproportionately separates Black, immigrant, and low-income families, and often penalizes survivors who find themselves particularly vulnerable to ongoing abuse. Being able to access an interdisciplinary team of anti-trafficking attorneys, social workers, and medical providers who can address essential family law issues is critical in supporting trafficking survivors.

When survivors don’t have access to advocates to help them protect themselves and their children, it sends a clear message: their experiences are not important enough for representation. Survivors deserve safety, to remain together as a family, and holistic support to achieve their goals.

Audrey’s social work background in advocating for survivors of domestic violence and sex trafficking has motivated her to continue combating gender-based violence through direct legal services.

Fellowship Plans

As a Fellow, Audrey will combat gender-based violence by providing representation through direct services, training to expand the network of legal support available, and policy advocacy to address institutional discrimination against BIPOC survivors in the removal and termination of parental rights processes. This project will also include family reunification for formerly incarcerated survivors and resources for collateral civil legal services related to surviving abuse.

I believe that every survivor deserves to be safe, free of abuse, and empowered to make decisions for themselves and their families. Our legal system can and must do more to pursue true gender, racial, and economic equity for survivors by uplifting and listening to their needs.

Audrey J. Hertzberg /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Maya (she/her/hers) will establish a farmworker Medical-Legal Partnership hosted by the Central West Justice Center and in partnership with the Connecticut River Valley Farmworker Health Program to provide holistic care and advocacy in housing, benefits, and employment matters to farmworkers in Massachusetts.

Thousands of farmworkers in Western Massachusetts work for long hours and low pay to put food on our tables. In addition to extremely hazardous labor, farmworkers are twice as likely to live in severe poverty, face housing instability, poor living conditions, and food insecurity. Some farmworkers are also isolated and difficult to reach through traditional legal aid models. Maya’s project will develop and implement a Medical-Legal Partnership to address farmworkers’ unmet legal needs and work with medical clinic staff to improve the health and wellbeing of farmworkers and their families.

Maya is passionate about improving access to critical services for farmworkers in her community and aims to use her legal education to fight for the health justice and legal rights of this underserved population.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Maya will represent farmworker clients with their housing, benefits, and employment needs. She will be on-site in the farmworker medical clinic to provide advice and consultation to farmworkers. Maya will also engage with farmworkers and other organizations to conduct outreach and training on the rights and resources available to farmworkers. Finally, Maya will engage in policy advocacy on issues impacting farmworker health at the state and national levels.

Media

Four Northeastern Law Students Awarded Equal Justice Works Fellowships

Farmworkers are one of the most essential and underserved populations in Massachusetts. Having grown up in Springfield, I am proud to develop a model of holistic services to improve the health and well-being of farmworkers living in my community.

Maya McCann /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Through a medical-legal partnership between the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia and MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s Community Violence Intervention Program, MJ (they/them/theirs) will provide civil legal help to survivors of gun violence and collaborate on systemic advocacy efforts with clients and colleagues.

Gun violence negatively impacts hundreds of Washington D.C. residents every year. 81% of gun violence survivors receiving services from MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s Community Violence Intervention Program have at least one unmet civil legal need. Many survivors do not seek legal help due to distrust of lawyers and the legal system. Survivors of gun violence are at risk for reinjury and retaliatory violence when their civil legal needs go unmet.

Fellowship Plans

Through one of the first medical-legal partnerships in the country with a hospital-based violence intervention program, MJ and their colleagues from the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia will promote the recovery and stability of gun violence survivors through trauma-informed civil legal services and systemic advocacy. Areas of civil legal help will include public benefits support, criminal record expungement, consumer debt relief, and family and housing law matters. Systemic advocacy will address chronic barriers to stability faced by gun violence survivors, such as food and income security, homelessness, access to healthcare, and the collateral consequences of over-policing and over criminalization.

Media

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I want to be part of efforts to address community violence through compassion and harm reduction rather than criminalization and incarceration.

MJ Smith /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Carly (she/her/hers) will provide emergency legal care by addressing the unmet civil legal needs of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) survivors of intentional violence on Chicago’s South Side.

Chicago has seen a 139% increase in monthly homicides in the last two years. Chicago recorded more than 1,000 homicides in 2021, and 90% of those impacted by gun violence were BIPOC. Nationwide, Black men are fourteen times more likely than White men to be shot to death. BIPOC men are nationally underserved by legal service providers who could supply a path from justice involvement to economic stability. Individuals in Chicago who received emergency financial assistance were 51% less likely to be arrested for a violent crime. This decline in crime is causally connected to greater housing and economic stability.

Fellowship Plans

During her fellowship, Carly will establish a new point of access for civil legal services in Chicago through one of the country’s first medical-legal partnerships with a hospital-based violence intervention program (HVIP). Carly will provide trauma-informed legal advocacy in the emergency department alongside the credible messengers and community leaders at UChicago Medicine’s HVIP. Services will primarily focus on public benefits and will include wraparound civil legal support. Carly will also train medical staff on how to screen for civil legal needs to demystify the legal process for both providers and patients.

Working as an Emergency Medical Technician, I have seen firsthand the need for legal care in the emergency department.

Carly Loughran /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Moriah’s project aims to move individuals from despair to hope to action by creating “Pardon Projects” for criminal record clearing in Philadelphia’s low-income/high-crime neighborhoods like Tioga-Nicetown and Strawberry Mansion.

Over 100,000 low-income Philadelphians have turned their lives around since they were justice-involved and now merit the second chance that only an expungement or a pardon can give. Unfortunately, many qualifying individuals are unaware of or do not have access to the clemency services best suited for them.

Short-term, pardons and expungements allow formerly justice-involved folks who have paid their debts to society to get out from under the oppressive burden of a criminal record and become eligible for the jobs, loans, and housing they are otherwise forced to live without. Long-term, criminal record clearing can pull people, families, and communities out of poverty and reduce criminal activity, especially violent crime.

Moriah is an urban educator turned public-interest lawyer who has dedicated her professional life thus far to serving and seeking justice for, and alongside, members of Philadelphia’s indigent communities.

Fellowship Plans

By serving as the liaison between Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE) and trusted organizations in Philadelphia’s most high-crime, low-income neighborhoods, Moriah will aid in the development of community-based Pardon Projects where potential clients can receive assistance applying for exonerations and pardons throughout the city. As a result, by the end of 2023, the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons should be receiving 4,000 well-drafted pardon applications from low-income Philadelphians alone, up from just 50 in 2020. Moriah will also recruit, coordinate, and assign volunteer Pardon Coaches to assist in each pardon applicant’s hearing preparation.

Criminal records are shackles keeping people and communities imprisoned long after their sentences have been completed. Cutting those chains has immediate effects on the individual’s self-definition and the hope and energy they have about the future.

Moria Mendicino /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Megan’s Fellowship will provide legal services to vulnerable cancer patients in Washington, D.C. and will help clients address unmet needs surrounding health insurance matters.

The impact of a cancer diagnosis is life-changing and often devastating for patients and their families. In addition to the physical, mental, and financial issues associated with cancer, many patients also face unexpected legal challenges. Unfortunately, it is also at this critical time that patients are more likely to lose health insurance coverage, have a gap in coverage, or not be able to access the services they need.

Fellowship Plans

Megan will work with the Cancer Legal Assistance and Wellbeing (Cancer LAW) project at Medstar Washington Hospital Center, a collaboration with Georgetown’s Health Justice Alliance, which provides pro bono legal services to cancer patients receiving care at the hospital. After developing a new screening tool to identify patients with health insurance needs, Megan will work with patients referred for these and related legal issues. She will enroll patients in coverage, appeal improper denials of coverage, pursue retroactive Medicaid funds, and create resources to train future attorneys in this work. She will also collaborate with pro bono partners to create a Medicare Part D enrollment clinic to ensure that patients enroll in the best plan for their needs.

Cancer invites complicated legal problems. When I can help with their legal issue, patients can focus on their healing.

Megan Gordon /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Matthew’s  (he/him/his) project utilizes investigation, litigation, and advocacy to compel the military to stop wrongfully denying medical retirement benefits to qualifying veterans.

After two decades at war, many of the 200,000 veterans discharged each year bear more than the physical wounds of war. They also exhibit the invisible “signature wounds” of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan— mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Wounded and ill service members who are unable to serve due to their disabilities are entitled to processing for military retirement. But each year, the military declines to medically retire thousands of servicemembers with serious physical and mental health conditions. Instead, these service members are discharged without proper processing and rating for their disabilities. Comprehensive policy reform is needed to change how the military treats wounded veterans.

Fellowship Plans

During his Fellowship, Matthew will identify veterans who should have been medically retired and work with the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP)’s pro bono partners to bring retroactive medical retirement claims. He will also conduct factual investigations of the Department of Defense (DoD)’s current policies, identify systemic issues, and bring impact litigation to facilitate systematic reform. He will create a White Paper identifying systemic problems with the DoD’s current policies governing medical retirements and use this to advocate for new DoD regulations or legislation requiring consistent and equitable evaluation of all potentially eligible servicemembers for medical retirement.

When I was a soldier, I swore to never leave a fallen comrade. Now, as a veteran, I plan to fulfill that oath by using my skills as a lawyer to help my comrades obtain the benefits they have earned.

Matthew Handley /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow