Olivia, A Transgender Navy Veteran, Successfully Appeals A VA Claim
Olivia*, a transgender Navy Veteran, was having a hard time coping with trauma and injuries that she suffered while in the military. The Veteran served six years in the United States Navy as a queer male and during this time was regularly harassed and physically assaulted. The harassment included serious threats to be thrown overboard if she ever came out.
Suffering from extreme depression and nightmares, Olivia was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder. At that time, she applied for compensable benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Due to a lack of records and treatment during her time in service, the claim was denied.
After a few years, of dealing with her trauma with little to no support. Olivia came to Legal Aid Service of Broward County looking for legal assistance with her appeal. Olivia was directed to Legal Aid’s Mission United Veterans Pro Bono Project, which provides free legal services to eligible veterans, active-duty service members, and their families in Broward County.
The staff attorney at the Veterans Pro Bono Project was able to obtain and review all of the Veterans military service records and discovered a pattern of behavior change and disciplinary action that coincided with her reported incidences of abuse. The attorney presented this evidence at a hearing before the Board of Veterans Appeals. After reviewing the evidence, the Board agreed that Olivia’s PTSD was related to her military service and granted benefits retroactive to her initial application.
Why it Matters
Olivia now has some support to help her deal with her trauma and feels that she received some level of justice. Access to legal assistance is critical for cases such as Olivia’s to result in a positive outcome – however not many can afford to hire an attorney. It is up to organizations such as Legal Aid Service of Broward County to provide this critically needed service to the most vulnerable nd underrepresented members of our community.
Legal Aid’s Veterans Pro Bono Project’s mission is to remove legal barriers to housing, healthcare, education, employment, and financial wellbeing for veterans through the assistance of pro bono attorneys. Legal services provided to eligible veterans are 100% free. To learn more visit: browardlegalaid.org/mission-united-veterans-project.
*Names and images have been changed to protect the privacy of our clients
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