CVLC Staff By Department
Leadership & Administration
Alison Weir, Executive Director
Felix Chaoulideer, Chief of Staff
Millie VandenBroek, Special Counsel to the Director
Shannon Carter, Data Analyst
Screening & Referral Team
Karen Gargamelli-McCreight, Screening Attorney
Juliet Taylor, Intake and Program Access Specialist
Brianna Jarvis, Intake Assistant
Development & Communications Team
Shannon Mykins, Director of Development and Communications
Patrick J Dunn, Deputy Director of Development and Communications
Chelsea Donaldson, Supervising Attorney, VA Benefits
Sharon Fialkovich, Attorney, VA Benefits and Elder Law
Eva Puoro, Attorney, VA Benefits
Janice Wolf, Attorney, VA Benefits
Nikki Kelsey, Paralegal, VA Benefits and Discharge Upgrade
Jordan Lownsdale, Legal Assistant, VA Benefits
Darren Pruslow, Supervising Attorney, Civil Legal
Christy Fisher, Senior Counsel, Civil Legal
Brendan Murphy, Howard R. Udell Staff Attorney, Civil Legal
Cyd Oppenheimer, Attorney, Civil Legal
Peter Katona, Paralegal, Civil Legal
Alden Pinkam, Attorney, Discharge Upgrade and and Policy Analyst
Meet the Team of CVLC
Shannon is a Data Analyst at Connecticut Veterans Legal Center. Their background in qualitative research centers primarily on the intersections of housing instability, homelessness and substance use. Their work is driven by a philosophy of harm reduction and dignity for vulnerable populations. Shannon received their MPH in Health Policy with a concentration in Health Justice from Yale School of Public Health in May of 2022 and is a former Research Assistant at the Housing and Health Equity Lab. They also have a BS in Public Health from Southern Connecticut State University.”
Chief of Staff
Before joining CVLC, Felix worked at the Cook County Jail in Chicago, Illinois, where he taught and organized classes for detainees.
Felix recently graduated from the University of Chicago with a B.A. in Philosophy and German and may pursue a legal degree in the future.
Supervising Attorney VA Benefits
Passionate about access to justice and trauma-informed practice, Chelsea has chosen to dedicate her life to serving the community that requires legal aid the most: low-income individuals struggling with mental illness and trauma. Her primary practice at CVLC remains heavily focused on veterans struggling from severe mental health diagnoses accessing the healthcare and services that they need to heal. Her recent access to justice advocacy includes expanding access to re-entry services to incarcerated veterans and developing pro se legal resources for all veterans stigmatized by unjust “bad paper” discharges.
Passionate about access to justice and trauma-informed practice, Chelsea has chosen to dedicate her life to serving the community that requires legal aid the most: low-income individuals struggling with mental illness and trauma. Her primary practice at CVLC is heavily focused on veterans struggling from severe mental health diagnoses accessing the healthcare and services that they need to heal. Her recent access to justice advocacy includes authoring testimony in support of the rights of incarcerated people and working to expand access to healthcare for veterans wrongfully discharged with “bad paper.”
Chelsea began her career at CVLC as a Connecticut Bar Foundation Singer Fellow representing survivors of military sexual trauma in VA Benefits cases. Prior to her Singer Fellowship, Chelsea worked as clerk for the Connecticut Judicial Branch. Her graduate career includes clinical experience as a social worker for incarcerated people reintegrating into society. She earned her J.D., cum laude, from Western New England University School of Law and her M.S.W. from Springfield College. She is admitted to the Connecticut State Bar and Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims (CAVC).
Patrick J Dunn
Deputy Director of Development and Communications
Patrick (he/him) is the Deputy Director of Development and Communications. He originally moved to Connecticut from Ankara, Turkey in 2003 to attend the University of Hartford where he studied creative writing and arts management. For the past 15 years he has dedicated his life to the nonprofit sector, working for both arts & culture and human service nonprofits. In addition to his nonprofit work, Patrick has helped raise thousands of dollars in volunteer roles for community organizations and social justice causes and worked as an advocate for underserved populations.
Separate from his nonprofit work, Patrick is also a professional performance artist.
Attorney VA Benefits / Elder Law
Sharon Fialkovich is CVLC’s Staff Attorney focusing on Veterans Benefits for seniors. Prior to joining CVLC, she worked as an Agency Attorney for the City of New York Department of Social Services. Before her time at DSS, she worked as a Staff Attorney at Womankind (former New York Asian Women’s Center), where she headed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Project and assisted trafficking and domestic violence victims seeking immigration remedies. Sharon received her J.D. from the City University of New York School of Law and her B.A. from the State University of New York Binghamton. She is admitted to practice law in Connecticut and New York.
Senior Counsel Civil Legal
Christy has a long-term commitment to public interest law, working in Connecticut and Washington, D.C. as a legal services attorney, clinical law instructor, and consultant on the provision of legal services. Before joining the CVLC staff, Christy worked in the Lower Naugatuck Valley and New Haven as part of New Haven Legal Assistance Association (LAA), and served as a Program Officer with the Legal Services Corporation in D.C. As a clinical instructor of law, she has conducted programs ranging from consumer bankruptcy and community lawyering to her most recent position with the Veterans Clinic at Quinnipiac University’s School of Law. In 2022, Christy received the Connecticut Bar Association’s Charles J. Parker Legal Services Award, in recognition of her “abiding interest in and dedication to the delivery of legal services to the disadvantaged in Connecticut.”
Karen began her legal career at Common Law Inc. working with community organizers to increase access to legal services in low-income NYC neighborhoods.
At Common Law, Karen co-created an innovative model to address the foreclosure crisis through pro se training. This model worked to bridge the access to justice gap for low-income individuals and their families facing home foreclosure.
She also co-founded and co-directed Benincasa Community, a small non-profit offering hospitality and supportive services in NYC and—most recently—therapeutic farming and eco-education in Guilford, CT.
Karen earned her J.D. from the City University of New York School of Law and a B.A. in English Literature from Loyola University Chicago. She is admitted to practice in Connecticut and New York.
Brianna Jarvis is the intake assistant at CVLC, where she assists the screening team as a first point of contact for veterans and their needs. Prior to joining the CVLC team, Brianna has been around military personnel her entire life, but especially veterans, which is why she holds great passion for working with the population. Her involvement with veterans includes being part of the DAV auxiliary, attending the national DAV conventions, and assisting DAV Chapter 17 events. She takes great pride in helping others in any way she can, especially those that have served this country.
Brianna holds a BA in psychology and a minor in criminal justice from Temple University. Additionally, she is a student at Northcentral University where she is studying forensic psychology. Between her background and education, she is excited to be able to apply the two to her day-to-day work at CVLC.
Paralegal Civil Legal
Peter is a paralegal at Connecticut Veterans Legal Center and is currently studying at Quinnipiac University School of Law. He brings a diverse professional background to CVLC in both the public and private sectors, ranging from independent work as a journalist to educational support to communications. With advanced degrees from Columbia University and CUNY, Peter’s communications experience includes freelance and full-time non-profit work as well as extensive time doing media and constituent services with the NYS Senate. At Quinnipiac, Peter serves as a Senator in the Student Bar Association.
Paralegal VA Benefits and Discharge Upgrade
Nicola Kelsey is a paralegal at Connecticut Veterans Legal Center. Nikki comes to us with a diverse legal background. Prior to this position, Nikki worked at the U.S. District Court clerk’s office as the Operations Supervisor in the Hartford division, and previously as a case administrator in the New Haven division. Before her time at the Court she worked for almost ten years as a paralegal at Wiggin and Dana LLP in New Haven and she worked over six years as a legal assistant for the Subway franchisor in Milford, CT. Nikki is a graduate of Wellesley College with a B.A. in history.
Legal Assistant VA Benefits
Jordan Lownsdale is the Screening Assistant at CVLC and provides technical support and assistance for the screening team. Prior to joining CVLC, Jordan was a Prior Authorization Coordinator at The Resource Exchange in Colorado, where they managed cases for people receiving services through Medicaid waivers. Their work included the co-founding of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion workgroup, which promoted an intersectional model of understanding identities. They have a passion for advocacy through education, social supports, and community resources.
Jordan holds a BS in Psychology and a minor in Anthropology from the University of Central Florida, where they were a Burnett Honors student and a National Merit Scholar. Their background in mental health, LGBTQ+ identities, at-risk youth and youth offenders, and disability supports all demonstrate their versatility. They are honored to apply these experiences to serve the veteran population of Connecticut.
Howard R. Udell Staff Attorney Civil Legal
Brendan Murphy is honored to be CVLC’s Howard R. Udell Fellow. Attorney Murphy’s practice covers a wide range of civil legal matters, including housing, child support, and VA benefit claims. He serves veterans in northern, central, and eastern Connecticut. He uses an interests-based approach and mediation to promote multi-party cooperation and address client needs.
Prior to joining CVLC, Brendan started a solo law practice through the Connecticut Community Law Center (CCLC) incubator. During and after his time with the CCLC, Brendan’s practice focused on ‘low bono’ services aimed to bridge the access to legal services and conflict resolution gap.
Brendan has been named a Connecticut Mediation Association board member . He is also a member of the Sustainable CT Windham town committee. He earned his J.D. from the Western New England University School of Law and a B.A. in English from the University of Connecticut.
Director of Development and Communications
Shannon Mykins is the Director of Development and Communications since early 2023, where she is proud to connect people and organizations to the incredible work of the CVLC. Shannon began her career as an AmeriCorps VISTA member with the Department of Health and Human Services in the state of Montana before arriving in New Haven, CT in 2011. Over the past decade, she has worked with the Agency on Aging of South Central Connecticut, Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven, and International Festival of Arts & Ideas and has dedicated her life to meaningful community impact and social change. Shannon is a graduate of Thomas Nelson Community College (Hampton, VA) and the College of William & Mary (Williamsburg, VA). She lives in New Haven with her dog, Levon, and child.
Photo by Shaleah Williams, Eighty7Pixels.
Attorney Civil Legal
Cyd Oppenheimer is a staff attorney with CVLC’s Civil Legal Unit.
Prior to coming to CVLC, Cyd worked with the Yale Law School Project on Prosecutorial Accountability. From 2007-2016 she was a Senior Policy Fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children, where she engaged in research, data analysis, and legislative and administrative advocacy on issues related to child welfare, juvenile justice, early care and education, and K-12 education. Over the course of her legal career, Cyd has also represented defendants in criminal court and children in special education and disciplinary proceedings. As well, she taught eighth grade English in Raymondville, Texas, as a Teach for America corps member.
She holds a J.D. from Yale Law School, where she was awarded an Arthur Liman Public Interest Fellowship, and a B.A. from Williams College. She lives in New Haven with her husband, four daughters, two dogs, and one son.
Attorney, Discharge Upgrade and and Policy Analyst
Alden Pinkham joined CVLC in 2020 as the Connecticut Bar Foundation Singer Fellow focused on improving veterans’ access to their mental health benefits. She continues to focus on assisting veterans who experienced mental health conditions or faced discrimination during service as a Staff Attorney and Policy Analyst.
Before deciding to become an attorney, Alden worked as an advocate for victims of human trafficking on the National Human Trafficking Hotline and as a consultant and trainer for anti-trafficking non-profits. She also worked for Central Virginia Legal Aid Society as a migrant outreach worker, educating migrant farmworkers about their employment and housing rights. Alden received her J.D. from Yale Law School and her M.A. and B.A. from the University of Virginia.
Supervising Attorney Civil Legal
As a Supervising Attorney at CVLC, Darren Pruslow’s practice covers a wide range of areas from civil legal issues (housing, child support) to various VA Benefit claims. In addition to representing clients, he is a lead on working with our VA partners and strengthening CVLC’s Medical Legal Partnership (MLP).
Prior to CVLC, Darren created a small ‘low bono’ practice focused on bridging the gap between legal services and traditional representation. He continues a near 20-year career as an educator as the co-founder of the Quinnipiac University School of Law Veteran’s Clinic and as an adjunct in the University of New Haven’s Legal Studies and Political Science Department. He also is on the board of the Connecticut Mediation Association.
Darren has his J.D. form Quinnipiac University School of Law and MS in Education from Hofstra University. His undergraduate degree is from the College of the Holy Cross where he majored in Sociology with a concentration in Peace and Conflict Studies.
Attorney VA Benefits
Eva Puorro has had helping veterans on her radar for quite some time. She is an experienced litigator, having practiced in New York and Connecticut for many years in securities arbitration and litigation, labor and employment law and general civil litigation. She learned the basics of VA benefits practice in 2014 when she began working with CVLC in 2014 as a pro bono attorney. When she was offered a chance to work at CVLC as a Staff Attorney, she jumped at the opportunity. Her work with CVLC initially involved exposure cases and most recently involves helping veterans with PTSD and other mental health conditions, and military sexual trauma. Her experience with CVLC has provided her with a deep understanding of the unique challenges that veterans face. Eva is admitted to practice in Connecticut and New York and resides on the shoreline with her husband and son. She received her J.D. from New York Law School and her B.A. from Fordham University’s Rose Hill campus.
Intake and Program Access Specialist
Juliet Taylor is a decorated Army veteran having served for over eleven years, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. She brings to CVLC’s screening team extensive experience as a veterans advocate, having worked tirelessly with several veteran and community organizations across Connecticut. Juliet has completed her Licensed Professional Counselor degree at the University of Bridgeport and she is currently the State Commander for the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).
Special Counsel to the Director
As Special Counsel, Millie VandenBroek serves in an advisory capacity to CVLC’s Executive Director on matters of veterans law and policy. Since joining CVLC in 2015, she has served as Staff Attorney for VA Benefits Law, Staff Attorney for Discharge Upgrades, and Policy Counsel. Millie’s particular interests and expertise involve advancing a more inclusive and public health-informed approach to veteran’s law and policy. She has taught in the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School as a Visiting Clinical Lecturer and was a contributing author to the Military Discharge Upgrade Legal Practice Manual published by the American Bar Association. Millie received her JD from Georgetown University Law Center and MPH from Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Alison Weir joined Connecticut Veterans Legal Center after serving as the Benefits Policy Advocate and a staff attorney at Greater Hartford Legal Aid. Prior to her legal career, Alison was a career active duty officer in the U.S. Air Force, retiring as a lieutenant colonel after serving 20 years. Her duties in the Air Force included program management in national security space programs, instructor duty at the Air Force Academy, speechwriting for the Chief of Staff, and other assignments. In addition to her post-Air Force work at GHLA, she was at the National Diaper Bank Network for seven years where she developed and implemented the diaper distribution network programing and advocacy agenda for a network of 300+ diaper banks across 47 states. Alison has also worked as an attorney at the Wiggin and Dana law firm in New Haven; she was a clerk to the Hon. José A. Cabranes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; and she was a Supreme Court Fellow with duty at the U.S. Sentencing Commission. She earned her B.A. (English) and B.S. (Electrical Engineering) at Cornell University, her Ph.D. (English) from the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, her J.D. from Georgetown University (magna cum laude), and her LLM (Insurance) from the University of Connecticut School of Law.
Photo by Studio DUDA.
Attorney VA Benefits
Janice Wolf is a staff attorney with CVLC’s VA Benefits and Eligibility. Prior to coming to CVLC, Janice worked for the Connecticut Public Defender’s Office for over 17 years in various offices including Manchester G.A., Middletown G.A., New London G.A., and the appellate unit. She also taught general and business law classes at several local colleges/universities. Her most recent position was as a staff attorney with Tang & Maravelis, PC in the area of civil defense law specializing in insurance defense.
Over the course of her legal career, Janice has represented hundreds of clients during some of the most difficult periods in their lives. She is a strong advocate for coordinating any needed mental health and/or addiction services into resolutions for her clients with the goal of giving her clients the tools they need to succeed on their own.
She is admitted to practice law in Connecticut and is a certified mediator. Janice resides on the shoreline with her husband and two children.
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Every $1 invested in CVLC generates $20 of tangible benefits for Connecticut veterans.
Client Hector Alicea (left) and Client April Pearson (right). Photos by Desirea Photography.