Sara Huffman

The Project

Sara provided comprehensive medical-legal advocacy and outreach to low-income elderly veterans at the San Francisco Veterans Administration.

San Francisco is home to over 13,000 senior veterans, a population that experiences high rates of mental, physical, and cognitive disability which make it difficult for them to meet basic needs and stay safely in their homes and community. The need to address these vulnerabilities is increasing in urgency at both the national and local level. Nationally, the population is aging at an explosive rate while the percentage of seniors living longer and experiencing cognitive and physical decline continues to climb steadily. Veterans are particularly vulnerable amid growing concerns over the ability of the Veterans Administration to adequately address their needs. In San Francisco, the socio-economic needs of older veterans are particularly acute due to the astronomical rise in living costs and displacement of middle- and low-income individuals from the housing market.

Fellowship Highlights

During the Fellowship period, Sara:

  • Established a medical-legal partnership between the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the Medical-Legal Partnership for Seniors Clinic (MLPS) at UC Hastings College of the Law, called the MLPS-Veterans Project (MLPS-V)
  • Implemented a pilot plan to integrate MLPS law students into this project to help represent senior veterans
  • Represented 73 clients and provided consultations on an additional 41 discrete legal issues
  • Delivered community presentations on simple estate planning and avoiding the conservatorship process to approximately 150 seniors, including veterans and their spouses
  • Trained approximately 50 medical providers and social workers on the conservatorship process, as well as legal capacity standards for medical and financial decision making

What’s Next

Following the Fellowship, Sara stayed on at MLPS as the Managing Attorney of the MLPS-V. Sara continued working with community partners to establish and implement a plan for long-term project sustainability.

Media

Sometimes Legal Aid Isn't Enough: A Case for MLPs

The Project

Aaron created a medical-legal partnership (MLP) with the Monterey County Health Department in California’s Salinas Valley, providing free legal services to farmworkers, students, tenants, and families—with a focus on pesticide exposure, pregnant and disabled farmworkers, and the LGBTQ+ community.

In most of the country, families can drink tap water, children can play outside, and workers can earn a living without worrying that those activities will make them sick. In the Salinas Valley, residents cannot participate in these activities without encountering agricultural pollution like pesticide exposure and drinking water contamination, substandard housing, and rampant pregnancy and disability discrimination in farmwork. By creating an MLP, this Fellowship takes new approaches to these longstanding issues in an effort to serve the farmworkers, children, and families who sacrifice their health to put food on our plates.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Aaron has:

  • Provided legal services to more than 325 farmworkers, students, tenants, and families through MLP and limited walk-in clients—securing clients more than $230,000, helping remove bed bugs and mold from homes, securing reasonable accommodations and medical leave for disabled workers, increasing school-based services for special needs students, and connecting victims of intimate partner violence to immigration services
  • Served as lead CRLA attorney on case that successfully challenged regulations that disproportionately expose rural communities of color to Telone, a cancer-causing pesticide
  • Reduced exposure of pregnant farmworker women to pesticides known to cause reproductive harm by improving access to a state program that provides replacement income, and worked with statewide coalition to challenge denials and win approval from the state agency that administers the program
  • Secured funding from Monterey County to continue and expand the Monterey County Medical-Legal Partnership, including hiring two additional MLP attorneys and bringing MLP services to more patients at the Monterey County Health Department safety net clinics

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Aaron plans to assume a managing role with the growing Monterey County Medical-Legal Partnership, which he securing funding for, continuing to serve Salinas Valley farmworkers and families with health-harming legal needs, expanding services to address pesticide exposure and drinking water contamination, and strengthening additional focus area services for the LGBTQ+ community and H2A Temporary Agricultural Workers.