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Law School's Puller Clinic reaches out to local veteran communities

  • Veternas clinicThe Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Clinic was established in the fall of 2008.

    Veternas clinic

Working with a local law firm, the William & Mary Law School’s Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic will meet Feb. 25 with area homeless veterans to work through benefit hurdles and questions.

The Puller Clinic is comprised of William & Mary Law students and supervising attorneys from the law faculty. For the Richmond program, about a dozen clinic members will also work with attorneys from the Richmond law firm, McGuireWoods. The attorneys and students will first serve the veterans lunch and discuss veteran benefits, then meet with them one-on-one to address their benefits concerns.

The program will be the clinic’s second outreach event of the week. On Monday members of the clinic staff met with approximately two dozen veterans in a homeless shelter in Hampton, Va. Friday’s event is expected to serve 15 – 20 veterans.

“We have been in homeless shelters to give veterans information before, and the most striking thing is that most veterans know about healthcare opportunities through the Department of Veterans Affairs, but have no idea what other benefits might be available to them,” said Stacey-Rae Simcox, adjunct professor of law at William & Mary and a managing attorney for the clinic. “The value of the information they get from us could be the difference between sleeping on the streets and getting support from the VA that allows the veteran to afford housing or education to get training for a job.”

Created in 2008, the Puller Clinic assists former members of the armed services with filing claims for disability compensation with the Department of Veterans Affairs and provides students with the opportunity to interview clients, analyze medical records, communicate with health care providers, and craft strategies to help clients receive disability compensation.

“The clinic environment provides our law students with the basic everyday skill of being someone’s lawyer,” Simcox added. “These students can hit the ground running with real experience under their belts.  In addition, they learn some of the most rewarding experiences for attorneys are those one-on-one attorney client relationships where you can actually go to bed at night knowing that you helped to make someone else’s life a little better.”

The Puller Clinic is one of six legal clinics at the Law School. The clinic is partnered with the Virginia Commonwealth University's Center for Psychological Services and Development.  It is the only veterans clinic in the nation that works hand-in-hand with psychologists and psychology students. This partnership allows the Puller Clinic to take a “whole” veteran approach when helping with legal problems and recognizes that many of the disability issues veterans face have not only legal dimensions, but psychological ones as well, Simcox said.

The Puller Clinic is made possible through the support of private donations and a grant from the Jessie Ball DuPont Fund.