Students from the Health and Elder Law Clinic have won over $150,000 in Social Security back payments as well as ongoing monthly income on behalf of their disabled clients this semester. The awards came only after clients were repeatedly denied necessary and life sustaining benefits; many clients waited several years before appearing in front of an administrative law judge with a student representative from the Health and Elder Law Clinic.
Students David Berk, Vaishali Desai (2L), Michael Fasano (2L), Christopher Gottfried (2L), Lacee Landers (2L), Kayla Leland (2L), Anne-Solenne Rolland (2L), and Ilyas Sayeg (2L) individually developed a case plan and built their theory of the case by gathering necessary and relevant medical evidence from local doctors, researching social security regulations, and drafting and filing a persuasive brief on behalf of their clients.
"The best part of the experience isn't knowing that I won my client a good chunk of money," said Sayeg. "It was going full circle with the client from the initial interview where I gained an understanding of the breadth of the trauma they dealt with, to seeing the immediate impact that access to quality medical care makes in the daily life of my client."
At the hearing, students successfully presented an opening, conducted direct and cross-examination of each witness, and presented a closing argument before an administrative law judge. Students enhanced their client counseling skills and gained real-world oral advocacy skills while assisting their clients in overcoming many hardships stemming from a lack of access to necessary health-care.
Leland was inspired by her clinic experience. "The relationships that I built in Little Haiti preparing my client for his hearing have really given me an appreciation for pro bono work, and for that I am truly thankful to my client," she said.
Summing up his entire clinical experience, Fasano felt that "once you really get to know the clients and their issues you become passionate about your work and discover how truly satisfying the legal profession can be."
The University of Miami Health and Elder Law Clinic is a population-based clinic that uses a "teaching hospital" and social justice model providing student advocates with a dynamic, high-intensity and high-volume practice. Clinic clients are referred by health care providers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and other community-based organizations.