Maria Hunter
Director, Public Benefits

Maria Hunter-NYLAG-Public-Benefits-Unit-DirectorMaria Hunter is Director of the Public Benefits Unit, which works to ensure that low-income families, children, the elderly, those with disabilities, veterans, and other vulnerable populations have access to the public benefits to which they are entitled, including public assistance, SNAP benefits, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security Disability Insurance, and Supplemental Security Income. Maria was previously the supervising attorney for the Elder Law Practice where she led a team that represented senior clients on issues regarding access to public benefits, advance life planning, and addressed elder abuse. Maria received her J.D. from the New York University School of Law and she attended Cornell University and Brandeis University for her undergraduate studies.


Mika Aoyama
Coordinating Paralegal, Disability Advocacy Project, Public Benefits

Mika is a Coordinating Paralegal in the Disability Advocacy Project at the New York Legal Assistance Group. She advises and represents low-income individuals with disabilities in appeals, terminations, and overpayments before the Social Security Administration.  Prior to joining NYLAG, Mika worked as an AmeriCorps member at FEGS Health and Human Services, where she coordinated a program providing interview attire to public assistance recipients. She has also worked in the Public Service Office of Brooklyn Law School and volunteered at the International Rescue Committee’s refugee resettlement office in Oakland, CA. Mika earned her Bachelor’s degree at University of California, Berkeley.

Victoriya Baratt
Staff Attorney, Public Benefits

Deborah Berkman
Senior Staff Attorney, Public Assistance/SNAP Advocacy Practice, Public Benefits

Deborah is a Senior Staff Attorney with NYLAG’s Public Benefits Unit with a focus on benefits administered by the City of New York. She advises and represents low-income clients regarding access to public benefits, including cash public assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (food stamps) and Department of Homeless Services shelter.  Deborah pioneered NYLAG’s Shelter Advocacy Initiative, providing representation for homeless families who have been denied Department of Homeless Services shelter. Earlier, Deborah was a staff attorney in NYLAG’s Special Litigation Unit. Before joining NYLAG, Deborah spent her career fighting on behalf of the disenfranchised at the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and in private practice. Deborah received her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and her J.D. from Fordham School of Law.

Abby Biberman
Supervising Attorney, Public Assistance/SNAP Advocacy Practice, Public Benefits

Abby is supervising attorney of the Public Assistance and SNAP Practice, which provides representation to clients at hearings to ensure access to the cash assistance and food stamp benefits to which they are entitled. Abby also co-teaches the Economic Justice Clinic at Brooklyn Law School.  Previously she was a staff attorney practicing in the areas of housing, public health insurance, and elder law. Abby joined NYLAG as an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow with a fellowship focused on immigrant access to government benefits. Prior to joining NYLAG, Abby had the same fellowship at LawHelp NY at the City Bar Justice Center. Abby received her BA from Wesleyan University, and her JD from Temple University Beasley School of Law, where she was a Rubin-Presser Public Interest Scholar and Executive Articles and Symposium Editor of the Temple Political and Civil Rights Law Review.

Naysha Diaz
Paralegal, Public Benefits

Stephen Dunn
Staff Attorney, Disability Advocacy Project, Public Benefits

David Michael Falcon
Coordinating Attorney, Veterans Assistance Project, Public Benefits

David is a Coordinating Attorney at NYLAG, working on the Veterans Assistance Project. He handles individual veterans’ cases, mostly in the substantive legal areas of VA benefits, other public benefits such Medicaid and food stamps, housing, consumer, and advance directives, and planning. In addition, he coordinates with veterans groups and other community-based organizations serving veterans to promote NYLAG’s services, establish community-based clinics, and implement referral processes. Originally, David worked with NYLAG as one of the first clinical interns of the Economic Justice Clinic. Prior to joining NYLAG, he was a summer associate at the Legal Aid Society Queens Neighborhood Office. David is also a Staff Sergeant in the New York Air National Guard where he serves as a Quality Assurance Inspector with the 109th Airlift Wing in their support of Operation Deep Freeze, which provides C-130 transport to and from Antarctica. He graduated from St. John’s University School of Law in 2011.

Eliana Fisher
Paralegal, Public Benefits

Alena Gellerman
Staff Attorney, Public Benefits

Samantha Gerber Levine
Staff Attorney, Elder Law Practice, Public Benefits

Sam is a staff attorney in the Elder Law Practice of the Public Benefits Unit.  She advises and represents low-income seniors on a variety of health care and home care matters. Sam also assists clients with advanced life planning, including drafting Wills, Health Care Proxies, Living Wills and Powers of Attorney. Sam provides direct legal assistance to many of her clients in their own communities by staffing NYLAG’s mobile legal van, counseling seniors in their community centers and conducting home visits.  Before joining NYLAG, Sam directed the grants program at Team Continuum, a New York-based cancer charity.  Prior to that, she practiced corporate law at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP.  Sam received her law degree from Brooklyn Law School and her B.A. magna cum laude, from University of Pennsylvania.

Alison Glaser
Paralegal, Public Benefits

Alie is a Public Benefits paralegal case handler and coordinator of the Safety Net and Single Stop programs. She assists clients on a variety of health and elder law issues, including cases involving Medicare and Medicaid. Alie also coordinates Safety Net and Single Stop visits to NYLAG’s partner social services agencies, spread throughout all five boroughs. Prior to joining NYLAG, she worked with various civil and legal organizations including the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (ACLUM). Alie is a graduate of Tufts University where she studied Sociology and English.

Julia Greenberg
Senior Staff Attorney, Public Benefits

Oliver Harwood
Paralegal, Disability Advocacy Project, Public Benefits

Oliver is a paralegal in the Disability Advocacy Project, where he provides advice, advocacy, and full representation to those who have been wrongly denied Social Security benefits. He also involves himself in policy-related work and is co-chair of NYLAG’s Sustainability Committee. Previous to NYLAG, he was an ombudsman for long-term care residents in Portland, Oregon. Oliver is active in the community as a volunteer with 826NYC.

Miriam Hurwitz
Staff Attorney, Disability Advocacy Project, Public Benefits

Miriam is a staff attorney with NYLAG’s Disability Advocacy Project (DAP). Through the project, Miriam provides advice, advocacy, and full representation in Social Security appeals, terminations, and over-payments. Miriam previously represented vulnerable clients in federal criminal cases. She also served as an administrative law judge deciding unemployment benefits cases. Miriam graduated magna cum laude with honors from Brandeis University and from Northeastern University School of Law.

Jahna Locke
Equal Justice Works/Americorps Fellow, Public Benefits

Isabelle Muhlbauer
Paralegal, Public Benefits

Marta Mychak
Public Interest/Public Service Brooklyn Law School Fellow, Public Benefits

Ellen Piris Perez
Public Interest/Public Service Brooklyn Law School Fellow, Public Benefits

Taylor Poe
Staff Attorney, Matrimonial & Family Law/Public Benefits

Chris Portelli
Coordinating Attorney, Project FAIR Co-Director, Economic Justice Clinic Founder & Director, Public Benefits

Chris is Co-Director of Project FAIR and a Coordinating Attorney at NYLAG. Over the past 20 years, Chris has worked as a civil rights attorney at two major law firms, and has served on numerous boards and national committees focused on HIV/AIDS and lesbian and gay civil rights issues. Chris is also the founder and director of the new Economic Justice Clinic at St. John’s University School of Law. He has published several articles regarding law and public policy in scholarly and professional journals including: The Journal of Homosexuality, The Journal of Urban Affairs, The SIECUS Report, Priorities: The Journal of the American Council on Science and Health, and The New York Law School Journal of International and Comparative Law. Chris has taught courses on public policy and law at The Milano Graduate School (The New School) and New York Law School. Chris has served as the Director of Information for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) in New York City, and was the founding Executive Director of the National Lesbian and Gay Health Association in Washington, DC. Chris earned his BA in Philosophy from DePauw University, his JD from New York Law School, and a Masters of Philosophy in Public and Urban Policy from The New School.

Marlena Santos
Paralegal, Disability Advocacy Project, Public Benefits

Kseniya Shetrit
Staff Attorney, Elder Law Practice, Public Benefits

Kseniya is a staff attorney at NYLAG’s Public Benefits Unit, focusing on elder law.  She advises and represents seniors with respect to health care and home care, and assists clients with advance planning documents, including Medical Advance Directives, Powers of Attorneys and Last Wills and Testaments. Kseniya provides legal assistance to many of her clients directly in their community centers or in their homes through the UJA-Federation of New York’s Safety Net program. Prior to joining NYLAG, Kseniya practiced at a boutique trusts and estates firm on Long Island.  She received her J.D. from Brooklyn Law School in 2005 and her B.A. in Political Science and Psychology from New York University in 2002.  She is a member of the Trusts & Estates Law Section of the New York State Bar Association.

Rubina Siddiqi
Paralegal, Public Benefits

Téa Solomonia
Staff Attorney, Elder Law Practice, Public Benefits

Téa is a staff attorney with NYLAG’s Elder Law Practice where she advises and counsels the elderly on advance directive documents including, Health Care Proxies, Powers of Attorneys, Living Wills and Last Wills and Testaments. She participates in community outreach programs, helping individuals get critical information and assistance for cash assistance, food stamps, Medicare and Medicaid. Téa is also a volunteer at the New York City Bar Association’s Monday Night Law Program. Prior to joining NYLAG she worked as Legal Information Specialist at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, assisting senior attorneys with legal research and writing. She graduated from SUNY University at Buffalo Law School where she was actively involved in the Buffalo Human Rights Law Review.

Michelle Spadafore
Senior Supervising Attorney & Project Director, Disability Advocacy Project, Public Benefits

Michelle Spadafore is the Senior Supervising Attorney and Project Director of NYLAG’s Disability Advocacy Project (DAP). DAP provides advice, advocacy and/or full representation in Social Security appeals, terminations and over-payments. Michelle was previously a staff attorney at the AIDS Center of Queens County, a community-based nonprofit organization that provides services to people living with HIV/AIDS. Her background includes advising clients on Social Security, access to public benefits and health care, fair hearings, employee benefits, consumer credit issues, and other civil matters. Michelle graduated Phi Beta Kappa from University of California, Berkeley and magna cum laude from New York Law School.

Ben Taylor
Ben Taylor, Senior Staff Attorney, Public Benefits

Ben has been working as an attorney at NYLAG since 2004, working primarily on Medicaid Home Care issues as part of NYLAG’s Elder Law Practice.  The primary goal of the Home Care Project is to provide the legal assistance that is necessary to enable the elderly and disabled to live at home instead of in an institution.  Ben provides direct representation to individuals with home care problems, as well as on class action lawsuits that seek to cure systemic problems with the New York Medical Assistance Program.  Ben graduated from Cardozo Law School in 2004, and Reed College in 1998.