Bios

Margaret Ann ‘Peggy’ Matthews is Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Veteran Advocacy Services. Ms. Matthews holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honors) from Wellesley College and a Master of Arts, Social Work, from Boston University. She has achieved full accreditation from the United States Veterans Administration as a Veterans Administration Agent, and has been providing pro-bono advocacy to veterans nationwide for over 15 years.  __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Victor A. Núñez Ortiz is Vice President and Chief Operations Officer, Born in El Salvador, Victor’s family emigrated to the United States when he was seven years old to escape the civil war in their country. In 2001, Victor enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served for five years that included deployment as a combat engineer in Iraq. Returning home to continue his education at the University of Massachusetts Victor became deeply concerned about the dilemmas faced by returning combat veterans and went to work for the Department of Veterans Services ‘SAVE’ (Statewide Advocacy for Veterans Empowerment) Team, where he developed a unique skill set particular to veteran reintegration and suicide prevention. Having left the department, he continues this important work with Veterans Advocacy Services.  He holds an Associate of Science degree in Business Administration from Holyoke Community College, a Bachelors of Arts degree in Public Relations and Hospitality Administration from the University Without Walls at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

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Shawn Ryan is Special Operations Outreach Consultant, Navy SEAL, Paramilitary Contractor, Combative Firearms Instructor, Mindset Coach, and Founder of Vigilance LLC.  Sean enlisted in the United States Navy at the age of 18 and began his journey of becoming a Navy SEAL where he served with SEAL Teams 2 and 8 deploying to multiple conflict zones and fighting in both OIF (Iraq) and OEF (Afghanistan).  After leaving the US Navy and Navy Special Warfare Community, Shawn continued to serve his country as a paramilitary contractor involved in US intelligence clandestine operations.

During his 14 years of combat experience as both a Navy SEAL and paramilitary contractor, Sean made over 20 deployments to combat zones in 14 different areas of operations.  As the focus of this country’s fight against terrorism expanded from the anti-Al-Qaeda and Taliban Operations “Enduring Freedom” and “Iraqi Freedom” to The Islamic State (ISIS) Operation “Inherent Resolve”, Shawn left the Special Operations Community to pursue a new career and bring his skillset to the home front.

As the fight against terrorism has increasingly found its way to the United States, Shawn founded Vigilance in December 2015 to provide training to those in the civilian and law enforcement sectors. Vigilance’s purpose is to teach and instill the unique skills and mindset of a Navy SEAL to those who want to learn to defend themselves and their families against imminent threats.

Shawn is also very involved with helping his brothers in the special operations community who are ready to transition into the civilian life.  As the Special Operations Outreach Consultant for Veterans Advocacy Services, Shawn educates special operations veterans on their entitled benefits and helps facilitate the complex and difficult transition from elite warrior to civilian.

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Donna Burns, is the Secretary for Veterans Advocacy Services.  Donna’s interest in veterans issues is borne of close experience.  A mother of 2 United States Marine Corps infantrymen, Donna learned first-hand of the post-war challenges faced by combat veterans.  Donna is passionate about helping veterans and is working toward VA Accreditation as a Veterans Agent so as to broaden her work with Veterans Advocacy Services.

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Devin Bolger, is Director of Research. Devin holds a Bachelor of Arts from University of Massachusetts Amherst where he majored in legal studies and grew a passion for advocacy and dispute resolution. Devin is a certified mediator and looks forward to pursing a Juris Doctor degree.

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Amanda Ortiz, is Director of Community Outreach for Veterans Advocacy Services. Amanda is the sister of the late Nicole Ortiz (OIF ARMY Veteran) and Mallory Ortiz (OIF/EOF USMC Veteran).  She has been serving our Nations Veterans since 2010 when she spear headed fundraising efforts for the SemperFi Fund and other Veteran Organizations.  Amandas philanthropic dedication to serve our nations Veterans and VAS is a mere reflection of the assets Amanda brings to the VAS Team.