The Disability Advocacy Program (DAP) is welcoming new faces this fall, including new Senior Statewide Support Attorney Jennifer (Jenna) Karr of Empire Justice Center (Empire Justice). Jenna started this September to replace Kate Callery.
As one of three Statewide Support Attorneys, Jenna will provide information, technical assistance, training, and support to advocates throughout New York State on matters related to DAP. She will also provide leadership on policy issues, undertake legislative and administrative advocacy and participate in complex litigation. More about the scope of all the services provided by the DAP State Support team is in the article below.
Jenna brings deep knowledge of Social Security law and subject matter expertise to her new role. She has been providing direct representation to clients as part of the DAP Practice Group at Empire Justice since 2015. Her prior legal work included DAP advocacy at the DAP unit of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York from 2008 to 2012. Her direct services work includes many federal court appeals. As a supervisor at Empire Justice, Jenna has provided trainings to advocates internally and elsewhere, and she brings leadership on critical issues facing our clients. She is well-known to the DAP community, and has taken key roles in multiple initiatives, including the launch of a reentry outreach project, and a best practices workgroup with other DAP supervisors across the state.
Jenna will remain based in Western New York, in the Rochester office of Empire Justice. She joins fellow DAP Statewide Support Attorneys Emilia Sicilia of Empire Justice’s Yonkers office and Ann Biddle of the Urban Justice Center (UJC) in New York City.
Ann is a familiar face in the DAP community, well known as a DAP coordinator based at Legal Services NYC. She now becomes a DAP Statewide Support Attorney through UJC.
As an organization, UJC is new to the Statewide Support side of DAP. In July, UJC began providing state support services to DAP providers as a subcontractor to Empire Justice. However, the organization has a long history of providing direct representation to DAP clients with mental health impairments, with significant impact litigation in the realm of disability benefits. This includes a role as lead counsel in Amin v. Colvin, a lawsuit pending against the Social Security Administration (SSA) for its failure to docket non-disability appeals. Prior impact litigation includes Padro v. Astrue, a class action against SSA for systematic denial of due process, and two class action lawsuits successfully challenging SSA’s policy of automatically denying and suspending benefits based only on a warrant: Martinez v. Astrue and Clark v. Astrue.
Looking ahead, DAP Statewide Support will also provide more opportunities for staff at DAP-funded programs to take on training roles, a development intended to increase inclusivity and diversity of DAP presenters, and to provide professional growth opportunities to advocates across the state. We will continue to build community statewide, offering statewide trainings and meetings as well as occasional regional meetings.
DAP State Support at Empire Justice will add another new face this fall with the creation of a new Program Coordinator position. Hiring remains underway for the position, hopefully before the end of the year. This new position will be focused on data reporting and trainings.