New services target female military veterans

Our attorneys are continuing to provide essential services for military veterans — with a special focus on women and men who have been victims of sexual harassment and assault during their military service. 

Elizabeth Kristen, director of the gender equity program at Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, will add the employment angle to a legal clinic next week for female veterans that is being sponsored by the nonprofit Swords to Plowshares and staffed entirely by women.

The clinic runs from noon to 3 p.m. on Monday, April 4, in room 206, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco (the War Memorial Building); it adds to the organization’s impressive schedule of regular legal clinics for veterans. 

“Veterans often experience discrimination and harassment in civilian employment, sometimes as a result of their status as military veterans or as survivors of military sexual trauma,” Elizabeth says. And many face the additional challenges of post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health conditions for which they need accommodations at work. 

Other lawyers will assist at the clinic with disability-related claims, petitions to upgrade their discharge status, and appeals of benefits denials. The New York Times reported today that new data from Swords to Plowshares shows a steep rise in the number of veterans who are being denied benefits by the federal Veterans Administration. Much of the increase results from the military more frequently designating departures of people who might have qualified for a medical discharge as “other than honorable” to save time. Discharge status upgrades are difficult to obtain, and the process can take many years. 

Along with special counsel Cacilia Kim, Elizabeth recently spoke with KGO/ABC7 about military sexual trauma and related issues, and the segment posted today. 

The two attorneys were honored in January with the first annual Justice Awards from Protect Our Defenders, a nonprofit based in California that serves service members and veterans who are survivors of military sexual assault. 

Quick Escape