The 2013 Jack Berman Award of Achievement Goes to Melissa A. Tyner

As a 2006 graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a 2009 graduate of Whittier Law School, Ms. Melissa A. Tyner has devoted herself to issues affecting veterans and people with disabilities. She was nominated for the Jack Berman Award of Achievement for her work on behalf of female homeless veterans as a Senior Staff Attorney for the Los Angeles-based Inner City Law Center. Melissa’s public service accomplishments as a young lawyer, and particularly her substantial and impressive achievements in 2012 in serving Veterans, make her an outstanding twentieth anniversary year honoree of the California Young Lawyers Association for its Jack Berman Award of Achievement for Distinguished Service to the Profession and the Public.

The dearth of legal services for low-income and homeless Veterans is especially troubling because legal services are often essential to removing barriers to obtaining or retaining permanent housing, receiving needed healthcare, increasing income and opening doors to employment. Nationwide data show a veteran’s likelihood of success with claims for VA healthcare and other benefits increases dramatically when they are represented by an attorney. Ms. Tyner has impressively and effectively addressed this growing need for legal representation of Veterans.

In August of 2009, Ms. Tyner founded the the first legal clinic in the nation to provide legal aid to homeless female veterans at Inner City Law Center. ICLC is a nonprofit law firm focused on combating slum housing, preventing homelessness, and aiding homeless Veterans.ICLC provides a wide variety of legal services focused mainly on housing and homelessness to low-income individuals and families. ICLC employs a staff of 40 including 20 attorneys and remain the only provider of legal services on Skid Row.

Ms.Tyner’s practice focuses on disability rights and disability benefits law. In January of 2012 she was promoted to Senior Staff Attorney at ICLC. In this role, Ms. Tyner has also expanded ICLC practice to include other areas of law relevant to disabled Veterans including discharge upgrades, expungement of minor criminal offenses, ticket clearing, and various other matters.

To date, under Ms. Tyner’s supervision, the ICLC Homeless Veterans Project secured more than $1.3 million in retroactive benefits for veterans. Ms. Tyner leads monthly legal clinics for veterans at five area homeless shelters. ICLC has served as a national model for providing veteran services. Ms. Tyner has also partnered with medical service providers and homeless shelters to provide legal services and she has reached out to law firms to leverage the talent and resources of attorneys to help secure more benefits for veterans. Ms. Tyner’s work has been featured in the New York Times, CNN, National Public Radio, and several other media outlets.

Melissa demonstrates distinguished service to the profession and the public through her dedicated advocacy on behalf of disabled and homeless Veterans. Driven by the ICLC principal that ‘’each person should be treated with dignity and respect, Ms. Tyner works for long term, positive and meaningful change.” Ms. Tyner’s service, dedication, expertise, energy and results on behalf of one of the most vulnerable and deserving populations is truly outstanding and worthy of recognition as the recipient of the 2013 Jack Berman Award of Achievement.