The SLS Social Security Disability Project (SSDP), the Law School’s only in-house pro bono project, gives students the opportunity to work directly with local homeless clients.
Meeting a Local Need
The Law School established SSDP in 2007 to respond to an urgent need in the local community. Palo Alto’s newly established homeless center, the Opportunity Center for the Midpeninsula, had begun to swell with individuals who were facing hearings regarding claims for Social Security disability benefits and were in need of representation.
SSDP has a big impact on this community. During the 2008-09 academic year, 28 law students volunteered with SSDP. They successfully represented numerous clients at proceedings before Administrative Law Judges, obtained disability benefits for several others, and successfully resolved other kinds of payment disputes for still more.
All first-year SSDP volunteers will have the opportunity to participate in a hearing during their 2L year. In preparation for those hearings, SSDP students work closely with professionals at the Opportunity Center in the community – including physicians, psychiatrists, and social workers to develop medical evidence of disability.
SSDP has and eight person Executive Board made up of second and third-year law students. Board members take on leadership roles, helping to guide the development of the project and creating training and community education materials.