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New certificate program offered by Puller Veterans Benefits Clinic

  • Serving those who served:
    Serving those who served:  The Puller Clinic provides free legal representation to veterans and assists them with often complex claims and appeals for disability compensation benefits and discharge upgrades.  Photo by David F. Morrill
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William & Mary Law School will offer an online certificate program beginning in August that is designed for anyone who wants to become a knowledgeable and effective advocate for veterans and service members seeking disability compensation benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Faculty of the school’s Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic created the self-paced, fully online program for veterans, attorneys, veteran service officers, transitional personnel, family members, and caregivers. Successful completion of the program will lead to a non-degree Certificate in Military and Veterans Health, Policy and Advocacy (MVHPA). 

“We are excited to be taking our training in veterans advocacy beyond the Law School walls, making it available nationwide to assist in veteran reintegration and receipt of benefits,” said Professor Patricia Roberts, Vice Dean and Clinical Professor of Law, Co-Director of the Puller Clinic, and Director of Clinical Programs. By completing the coursework, Roberts said, "participants will receive intensive training in veterans benefits law, gain skill in persuasive advocacy, acquire an in-depth understanding of the claims, separations, and discharge processes, and learn more about the psychological challenges faced by veterans and service members.”

To obtain the certificate, enrollees will successfully complete four courses over two to four eight-week terms beginning August 21. Subsequent start dates will occur in October, January and March. The courses include Veterans Disability Benefits; Legal Research and Writing for Advocacy; Separations, Discharges, and Legislative Advocacy; and Psychological Challenges and Resulting Legal Issues for Service Members and Veterans. Courses may be taken individually if an enrollee does not seek to obtain the certificate.

The Puller Clinic is among eight clinics and a practicum at the Law School which provide students with the opportunity to hone their advocacy skills by working directly with clients. Law students under the supervision of Puller Clinic faculty assist veterans with often complex claims and appeals for disability compensation benefits and discharge upgrades.

Roberts said the certificate program is the latest example of William & Mary’s commitment to finding new and innovative ways of serving veterans and service members. In 2015, the clinic created Military Mondays, an ongoing and successful outreach effort that provides free advice and counsel to veterans and service members which was piloted at a Williamsburg, Va.,  Starbucks in partnership with Starbucks Armed Services Network. Military Mondays is offered or is in development by law schools and legal service organizations at more than two dozen Starbucks’ locations around the country.

For detailed course descriptions, tuition, and more information about the MVHPA Certificate program, please visit the registration page.  Discounted tuition is available for veterans and service members, ABA and MSJDN members, legal services attorneys and clinicians, as well as for group registrants.