WLALA Member Advocates for Homeless Veteran
by Vidhya Ragunathan
Amy Newton (not her real name) joined the Army when she was 19 years old to serve her country. During her time in service, Amy was an exemplary soldier and was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Army Service Ribbon. However, she also began experiencing symptoms of alopecia, an autoimmune disease resulting in hair loss, as well as migraines and depression. Her symptoms caused her to lose sleep, feel discouraged, and prevented her from being the soldier she wanted to be. Amy’s depression worsened to the point that she attempted suicide twice. She was released from service with an Honorable discharge, but her depression, migraines, and alopecia continued to go untreated and worsened. Amy became homeless almost immediately upon being discharged and encountered numerous obstacles to getting her life back on track, including several traffic citations. Her only income was a paltry $450/month from VA benefits.
Amy connected with Inner City Law Center (ICLC) in May 2017 and recognizing the challenges that Amy faced, ICLC turned to Karen L. Bizzini, a Partner at Sinnott, Puebla, Campagne & Curet and WLALA member for pro bono help. Karen went above and beyond in advocating for Amy. First, she was able to get Amy’s traffic citations dismissed so she would no longer have those barriers to housing and employment on her record. Then, she reviewed Amy’s voluminous military and medical records, performed comprehensive research surrounding Amy’s alopecia, worked with Amy’s family and friends to supplement her case, and finally argued the case before the VA. Karen stood by her client every step of the way, worked tirelessly to put together the best possible arguments, and approached the case with empathy, thoughtfulness, and a deep understanding of the impact that additional VA benefits would have on Amy. Karen was a true champion for Amy and her hard work paid off. Amy’s monthly VA benefits increased from $450 to $3,084 and she received retroactive benefits of over $120,000. Amy finally has the resources to begin to tackle the physical, mental, and emotional ailments resulting from her time in service.
Karen’s dedication to Amy and her case has resulted in a life-changing decision. Amy was so shocked and grateful that she went out of her way to let ICLC know that Karen achieved more for her than she ever expected. Amy and ICLC are grateful to Karen Bizzini and her commitment to pro bono.