Veteran Victories: “CVLC Has Given Me a Sense of Independence and Promise”

At CVLC, we are fortunate enough to have the honor of working with truly inspiring veteran clients. While we fight to open doors to healthcare, income, and housing for our clients, we also strive to give our veterans a space to tell their stories.

Before Army veteran S.A. came to CVLC, she was nearly homeless and living in a cloud of depression. “I wasn’t living – emotionally, physically. I felt stuck with nowhere to go.”

As a survivor of military sexual trauma (MST), S.A. suffers from debilitating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “My emotions were eating me up,” she says. She was unable to work and it really took a toll on her everyday life.

MST is psychological trauma resulting from physical sexual assault or sexual harassment occurring during active military duty. Female veterans with MST are nine times more likely to develop PTSD compared with female veterans with no history of MST.

In search for treatment, she first connected with a Vet Center therapist who referred her case to CVLC. In order to qualify for VA disability benefits, veterans must prove that their injury occurred during their time of service. But for many survivors of sexual assault, it can be difficult to prove when silence is a method of self-preservation. This is when CVLC stepped in.

As a medical-legal partnership (MLP), CVLC attorneys are co-located and collaborated with the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs in three locations to provide accessible, legal on-site services alongside veteran healthcare services. The seamless integration allows for unique opportunities for multi-disciplinary teamwork between VA social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, peer specialists and CVLC staff and volunteer lawyers, paralegals and law students.

CVLC Attorney Chelsea Donaldson took the case and worked closely with S.A.’s healthcare provider to construct a compelling claim for S.A.’s service-connected disability benefits by highlighting the markers of her invisible injuries. S.A. now has full access to the V.A. to continue her mental health treatment and the resources to focus on living her life.

As a mother and a grandmother, S.A. told CVLC how important her family was in this journey. Access to benefits has allowed her to contribute to her family and enjoy life with her grandchildren. She says, “Today I can be the mother and the grandmother I want to be. I grew up thinking that I wanted to grow old with my kids and I can do that now.”

Also a brain cancer survivor, S.A. is truly a fighter. Through her own grit and perseverance, she sought out the help she needed. Her advice to other veterans seeking help is to be proactive: “Just be honest with yourself. Talk to people. I didn’t know I could say anything and get therapy for it.”

She says that the resources given to her made a real difference in her recovery and success. To veterans, she says, “Ask. There is always an answer. It’s your right. You deserve it.”

Now S.A. says she feels positive about being a veteran. With many different veteran organizations around, she has grown to be social and enjoys networking with other veterans.

“I was a shut in for years. If it wasn’t job related, I was in the house,” she says. “Now I’m meeting new people. It has given me a sense of purpose.”

CVLC is proud to work with veterans like S.A. to give them access to the resources they need.

“CVLC has given me a sense of independence and promise,” she says. “I have nothing but good things to say. Only thanks and gratitude and love.”