March 2021
In This Issue:

  • Celebrating Women's History Month
  • Executive Director's Corner
  • Summary of Precedential Case, Long v. Wilkie
  • Volunteer Inspiring Pro Bono - Amanda Bedford, Esq.
  • Women Veterans Legal Clinic Celebrates One Year
  • Farewell to Mike Kail, Esq.
  • SWAN Fireside Chat with Board Member Lanita Morgan, Esq.
  • Services Overview for NACVSO Members
  • Introducing New Staff Attorney, Samanta Martinez-Villarreal
  • National Vietnam Veterans Day
  • Equal Justice Works Fellow Sworn In
  • Former Intern Commissioned In To Navy JAG
  • Honoring Our Volunteers: Successful Outcomes
Celebrating Women's History Month
TVC is proud to celebrate the significant accomplishments and contributions of all women every month
Executive Director's Corner
Spring forward! This is the cry we look forward to annually as days start to noticeably lengthen. I look at it from both a personal and professional perspective of thinking about new ways of tackling challenges with renewed energy to accomplish our goals. 
At TVC, our Equal Justice Works Fellows continue to grow their projects including the Remand Project, the Women Veterans Legal Assistance Program and the Veterans Naturalization Assistance Program. TVC has created a comprehensive presentation of all lines of service to various groups and veterans service organizations. We were particularly pleased to provide a presentation to over 200 NACVSO members last week. This long-standing partnership allows us to have an impact on their service to veterans. We're grateful for the relationship and thank them for their dedication.

As we are hopeful that the vaccine distribution will accelerate the re-opening of our country and world, we look forward to re-engaging in person with our many supporters, our Mission Partners and the veterans we serve.

I would like to spotlight a few personnel changes on the TVC staff. Senior Staff attorney, Ty Collier, USMC Reserve Major, will be taking a leave of absence to support the Opportunity, Diversity and Inclusion Branch at HQ USMC. We wish Ty well and look forward to his return later this fall. 

We also warmly welcome new staff attorney, Samanta Martinez-Villarreal. Samanta is spotlighted in the newsletter.

Lastly, Director of Strategic Operations, Mike Kail, is stepping down from TVC in a “second retirement” after having served five years with the organization. Mike had a distinguished career with Steptoe & Johnson LLP, retiring as Vice Chairman of the firm. In 2016, he began volunteering with TVC as a Senior Fellow. Mike graciously took on the role of Co-Director of Operations during the Executive Director search in 2019.

Mike has been invaluable to the organization, particularly in developing a strategic vision. He has been a trusted mentor to me over the past 15 months and I wish him “fair winds and following seas” with his many interests and most importantly, with his family.

In observance of National Vietnam War Veterans Day on 29 March, and as the son of an Air Force Vietnam combat veteran, I salute the dedicated service of the men and women that were engaged in that war, as well as the sacrifices of the families that supported their service members. They all deserve our national respect and admiration.
Steve Jordon
Executive Director
Summary of Precedential Case, Long v. Wilkie
Court Docket No. 16-1537
December 20, 2020 Decision
In Thun v. Peake, the Court created a general standard for determining whether a veteran’s disability is exceptional or unusual under § 3.321(b)(1) to warrant extraschedular consideration. 22 Vet. App. 111, 115 (2008). In Long, the Court recharacterized the Thun first-step analysis as a holistic approach with a broad “totality of the factors inquiry” and not a mechanical formula. The majority stated that “this . . . requires a reasoned assessment of both the veteran’s full disability picture and the capacity of the rating schedule to evaluate such.” The Court said that functional impairments/symptoms serve as the operative focus of Thun step one, and that functional effects are relevant to step two, which examines whether there is marked interference with employment and frequent periods of hospitalization. The dissent noted that this revised two-step analysis detracts from the majority’s desire to take a holistic approach.

In this case, Mr. Long argued that the Diagnostic Criteria (DC) for hearing loss did not fully consider his symptoms. The Court first found that his complaints about not being able to hear people at work sometimes and issues with speech discrimination are clearly contemplated by the rating criteria. Doucette v. Shulkin. 28 Vet. App. 366, 368 (2017) (holding that symptoms related to decreased hearing are contemplated by the DC). Regarding his self-esteem and personal satisfaction issues, as well as anxiety and depression, the Court stated that a valid diagnosis is required to warrant compensation in the first instance. The Court cited a recent case, Martinez-Bodon v. Wilkie, 32 Vet. App. 393, 404 (2020), for the assertion that a valid DSM-5 diagnosis is required to compensate a psychiatric disability. For Mr. Long’s ear pain, the Court found a lack of nexus between the pain and hearing loss, since Mr. Long attributed the pain to his use of hearing aids, not hearing loss. The Board decision was thus affirmed because Mr. Long’s symptomatology was not exceptional and was readily capable of evaluation under the applicable DC.
Volunteer Inspiring Pro Bono - VIP

Amanda Reine Bedford
Member, TVC National Volunteer Corps
Amanda Reine Bedford grew up in Houston, Texas and, after graduating from high school, she enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Amanda wanted to serve her country and once she enlisted, she fully intended to make the Marine Corps her career. 

Unfortunately, her military career was cut short and she was ultimately discharged for medical reasons in November 2001. Amanda returned to Texas and attended the University of Houston (UH) earning both a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Arts degree in psychology.

During this time, Amanda was navigating the VA system to obtain service connection. Through her experience, she realized that she wanted to help other veterans through the process by being a voice and advocate for them.

She attended the American University Washington College of Law (WCL), where her mentor, Professor Andrew Popper, a Marine Corps veteran, encouraged her to take courses in Federal Regulatory Processes, Government Liability, Administrative Law, and Veterans Affairs. Upon receiving her Law Degree, Amanda joined the team at Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) as a staff attorney and began her career representing Veterans.

“When I joined the Marine Corps, my goal was to be a career Marine, but life had different plans,” says Amanda. “I returned to school still longing for a military affiliation and feeling somehow separated from my core identity. Being a veteran’s law attorney has given me that identity back.”

During her time at VVA, Amanda volunteered with TVC, representing Veterans before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Amanda enjoyed the Court aspect of representation and decided to start her own solo practice as a veterans benefits attorney, helping veterans receive service-connection benefits.

However, when Amanda was hired as a Board of Veterans Affairs (BVA) attorney, she had to put her solo practice on hold. At the BVA she was able to learn a great deal about how judges make judicial determinations, which has proved very useful. Amanda left the Board when her husband’s job moved them to Stuttgart, Germany. While in Germany, Amanda took up her solo practice once again.

Amanda has taken seven cases with TVC, four of which have been remanded, two are on active appeal, and one that may be appealed to the Federal Circuit. As a service-connected veteran herself, she is a strong advocate for her fellow veterans and is a valued member of our TVC National Volunteers Corps.

“We are very grateful to Amanda for her service as a U.S. Marine and for continuing to serve her country as an advocate for our Nation’s Defenders,” says Courtney Smith, Director of Volunteer Outreach and Education. “She is a valuable member of TVC’s National Volunteer Corps, and we are happy to recognize her as a Volunteer Inspiring Pro Bono."
Women’s Legal and Advice Referral Clinic
One Year Anniversary
This month marks the one-year anniversary of TVC’s Women Veterans Legal Advice and Referral Clinic. Working closely with the leadership of the DC VA Medical Center’s Women’s Health Center, our Mission Partners at Duane Morris LLP, and the General Counsel of the Department of Veterans Affairs, we launched the clinic on March 10, 2020 as part of a Medical Legal Partnership with the DC VA Medical Center.

The Women’s Clinic is held in the Women’s Health Center at the DC VA Medical Center. The clinic is a space exclusively for women and staffed only by female providers. It is a “safe space” where women veterans feel protected from sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by male veterans. The Health Center provided TVC with the needed office space and we successfully launched our first clinic. TVC’s Legal Clinic for Women Veterans is staffed exclusively by female attorneys and is one of only three in the nation available to women veterans.
Due to COVID-19 closures, our inaugural clinic was the first and last in-person clinic of 2020. We quickly adjusted our model and began to offer the Women’s Clinic in a remote environment in May. TVC Staff Attorney, Caitlin Ens, collaborated with volunteers and came up with a system that would allow veterans to meet with attorneys by zoom or by phone, based on their preference. There was a learning curve and minor issues needed be resolved prior to getting started, such as creating a new scheduling system and sending client’s waivers, which are required before an attorney meets with a client.

Our biggest challenge was outreach to women veterans. At the Women’s Health Clinic, we had a unique opportunity to meet women veterans where they were. This new virtual environment required a big push in outreach to veterans and building relationships with organizations that support the woman veteran population.

“After a successful pilot, we needed to find a way to bring this service to women veterans on a regular basis. TVC founded the Women Veterans Legal Clinic at the same time the world was about to change. However, we did not let COVID-19 stop us from adjusting our processes to build a program that supports our female veterans. I’m very thankful for the support of the VA OGC and the dedicated staff at the Women’s Health Center."
Caitlin Ens, TVC Staff Attorney

In September 2020, TVC was awarded an Equal Justice Works Fellowship to build out the Women Veteran’s Legal Assistance Program. This two-year fellowship, staffed by Chesley Roberts and sponsored by Lockheed Martin, has been invaluable for the necessary outreach to grow the clinic program. There has been a significant increase in interest from women veterans due to Chesley’s efforts. In addition to managing and growing the clinic’s impact, Chesley is focusing on Military Sexual Trauma cases and creating cultural competency training.

"I want to thank Lockheed Martin for their generous support of the Women Veterans Legal Assistance Program. Because of this project, we’ve been able to build capacity and provide assistance to over 120 women veterans. I want to thank all the volunteers, including Lockheed Martin attorneys, for giving their time and talent to this important initiative."
Chesley Roberts, Women's Clinic Manager

Barriers to care for women veterans is well documented and studies show that women are not accessing the services they need because of the unwanted sexual attention they experience at many VA facilities. This is especially true for women who have experienced sexual trauma (an estimated one in three).

TVC is proud to provide this legal clinic to support the women who served our country with an approach that is thoughtful and culturally competent. We hope that clinics such as ours will become a reality in VA Medical Centers around the country.

Our Women Veterans Legal Advice and Referral Clinic is held the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. For more information about this clinic, or to volunteer, please reach out to Chesley Roberts at
Farewell to Mike Kail, Esq.
This month we bid farewell to Mike Kail. For the past five years, Mike has been an essential part of The Veterans Consortium senior staff. 

Mike joined the team as a Senior Fellow in 2016 and has had a series of roles, such as Director of Program Operations and most recently the Director of Strategic Operations. He has also been an integral part of the Outreach and Education team, developing the Core Mission Partner Initiative and building key relationships with law firms that have served as a source for many of our Pro Bono activities. 

Mike has played a critical role in the major accomplishments and initiatives of recent years and will be missed for his intellect, guidance, and sense of humor. We wish him fair winds and following seas.
“It has been an honor to work alongside Mike as we grew TVC's Outreach & Education component. Our partnership yielded a stronger component and a friendship built upon honesty and transparency. I admire Mike's zeal, intellect, and strategic foresight and will miss his sense of humor and witty play on words. Farewell my friend.”

Courtney Smith, Director of Volunteer Outreach and Education
Fireside Chat with Executive Board Member Lanita Morgan, Esq.
The Service Women's Action Network (SWAN) hosted a fireside chat to highlight the unique challenges black service women face during military service on February 25th.

Lanita Morgan, US Navy Veteran, attorney and TVC Executive Board Director, discussed military racial disparities in the law and the unique challenges for black servicewomen with SWAN CEO, Deshauna Barber.

The event was broadcast on Instagram and we encourage you to watch the discussion by clicking the link below.
TVC Presents Services Overview for the National Association of County Veterans Service Officers
TVC was happy to present an overview of our services to over 200 members of the National Association of County Veterans Service Officers (NACVSO) and to offer our support in their efforts to assist veterans and their family members. 
NACVSO plays a critical role in supporting veterans in their communities. In addition to many other duties, they assist veterans and their families by helping to develop and process their claims. A vast amount of the claims presented to the Veterans Administration each year originate in a county veterans service office. This is a key partnership for TVC which allows us to assist the VSO and ideally, to ensure the best outcome for the veteran.

We'd like to thank Herm Breuer, President of NACVSO, for collaborating with us on this presentation.
Introducing New Staff Member,
Samanta Martinez-Villarreal

Samanta Martinez-Villarreal joined The Veterans Consortium in March 2021 as a Staff Attorney. Sam analyzes incoming cases for potential placement with volunteer attorneys and reviews discharge upgrade cases. She recently passed the California Bar and is awaiting results for the Uniform Bar Exam.

Sam is a George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School alum and was a visiting student at the University of San Diego Law School. She graduated with a B.A. in Law & Constitutional Studies and minored in International Studies at Utah State University. While at George Mason, Sam was an active member and President of the Latinx-American Law Students Association, a member of the Civil Rights Law Journal, and received the GMU Law School Pro Bono Award. Sam was also a Student Advisor in the Immigration Litigation Clinic, interned for Judge John M. Tran of the Fairfax County Circuit Court and the Counsel for the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Prior to law school, Sam interned on Capitol Hill with Congressman Simpson who represents her home state of Idaho.

Sam is a military spouse and currently lives in California where her husband is stationed. Sam is an active member of the Military Spouse J.D. Network (MSJDN) and served on the MSJDN Law Student Committee. 

"The team at TVC has been very welcoming, and it seems like a great work environment to learn, grow, and get experience. I am personally invested in helping veterans because of my husband and our friends because someday, they will be the ones who need help navigating the system."

Welcome to the team, Sam!
Celebrating The Sacrifice of Our
Vietnam Veterans
On March 29, our Nation will commemorate National Vietnam War Veterans Day on its 50th anniversary. There are several virtual events, live webcasts and the 2021 traveling wall schedule posted to help us remember and respect the nine million American men and women – more than six million of whom are living today. Please take a moment to honor and thank them for their service by attending a virtual event our taking a moment to listen to their stories.
TVC Equal Justice Works Fellow Sworn In
On March 12, Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by Northrop Grumman and Covington & Burling LLP, Nicqelle Godfrey, was sworn in as an attorney with the State Bar of California. Nicqelle has been an EJW Fellow at TVC since October 2020, where she heads our Veterans Naturalization Assistance Program.

Congratulations, Nicqelle!
Former TVC Intern, Matt Parker,
Commissioned in to Navy JAG

Matthew Parker, TVC Summer 2020 David Isbell intern and Fall 2020 extern, was commissioned in to Navy JAG on Friday, March 19. Matt graciously shared pictures from his virtual commissioning ceremony. We are proud to have had him as part of our team and look forward to his future successes.

Bravo Zulu, Matt!
Honoring and Serving Our Veterans: Successful Outcomes
We are grateful to all our pro bono attorneys and their hard work, fighting for our nation’s defenders and getting them the benefits they need and deserve.
Our Volunteers & Successful Outcomes
Each month, TVC will highlight the attorneys who have had successful outcomes in the last 30 days for their TVC clients.
U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims Cases
Attig | Steel, PLLC
Alexandra Curran
Baker Botts LLP
Harrison Rich
David Tobin
Cameron Firm PC
Megan Ellis
Kathryn McCahill
Centonzio Law PLLC
Javier Centonzio
Columbus Community Legal Services, Catholic University
Michael McGonnigal
Joshua Kresh
Charles Bell
Kathryn Grasso
Duane Morris LLP
Joseph Casole
Matt Taylor
Foley & Lardner LLP
John Custer
Garreans Law LLC
Amy Garreans
Goldstein & Russell, PC
Charles Davis
Greene & Marusak
Jonathan Greene
Grubaugh Law
Joshua Grubaugh
Haseeb Legal LLC
Syed Hussain
Michael Just

Law Office of Gustavo Mayen
Gustavo Mayen
Law Office of Joseph Miele
Joseph Miele
Law Office of Michael J. Sepanik
Michael Sepanik
Law Office of Nicholas L. Phinney
Nicholas Phinney
Manne Law Office
Jason Manne
ODU Law Firm LLC
Layi Oduyingbo
Paralyzed Veterans of America
Jennifer Zajac
Parmele Law Firm
James Pavisian
Kathleen Overton
Porco Law
Christopher Porco
Quarles & Brady LLP
Otto Hinks
The Law Office of Augusta Siribuo LLC
Augusta Siribuo
The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program
Caitlin Ens
Thompson & Knight LLP
Kevin Clark
Veterans Rights Law Group
Chad MacIsaac
Brandon Garcia
West & Dunn
Travis West
Willian & Mary Law School
Caleb Stone
Solo Practitioners
Amanda Bedford
Jesse Groves
Mitch Kessler
Aaron Moshiashwili
Burgundy Niles
Gordon Sargent
Larry Wescott

Discharge Upgrade Cases
Levin College of Law at University of Florida
Judy Clausen

Remand Cases
Solo Practitioner
Aaron Moshiashwili

TVC Quote of the Month
 “When a vet is lost and needs help and guidance, your program gives him hope. Finally someone is in your corner, it’s the best feeling in the world. That’s how [attorney] Aaron Garavaglia made us feel.”

Marine Corps Veteran