There was no time for sightseeing when staff from William & Mary Law School and the Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic headed up Interstate 95 North to Washington, D.C., on February 1. Their mission—visit the White House’s Eisenhower Executive Office Building and report on the Clinic’s first four years of operation.
"Our meetings with leaders from the White House and the VA opened an exceptional new chapter in the continued development of the Puller Clinic and its consortium,” said Patty Roberts, director of clinical programs at William & Mary. “The visit made clear that the issues related to our wounded veterans are at the top of the administration’s priority list, and that the dedication and hard work of Puller Clinic staff and students is making a positive difference.”
The meeting was a follow-up to one held last September when the Puller Clinic hosted a team from the White House and discussed the Clinic’s program and its consortium, Helping Military Veterans through Higher Education (HMVHE). The consortium now includes more than a dozen universities in Virginia all committed to aiding veterans in a variety of ways.
In attendance from William & Mary were Roberts; Stacey-Rae Simcox, managing attorney of the Puller Clinic; Davison Douglas, dean of the Law School; John Paul Cimino, director of HMVHE; and Mike Connolly, W&M’s director of federal relations; as well as students and Mark Brunner on behalf of Senator Mark Warner (D-VA). Alums Chris DeLacy and Doug Dziak (both from the class of 1999) were on hand to lend their support and expertise.
The White House team included Rosye Cloud, White House director of policy for veterans, wounded warriors, and military families; Captain Todd Veazie, executive director of “Joining Forces,” the veterans initiative in the Office of the First Lady; and Paola Ramos, from the Office of the Vice President.
During the February meeting, the Puller Clinic presented outcome measurements for the Clinic’s first four years, which had been compiled by a team of Public Policy students at William & Mary. Earlier in the day, Clinic staff were provided an introduction to the Undersecretary for Benefits for the VA, Retired Brigadier General Allison A. Hickey, and have started a dialogue on ways that the Puller Clinic and the VA can partner to improve the benefits process as a whole.
“From the beginning, our clinic has sought not only to serve individual clients, but also to help positively shape the way in which veterans’ disability claims are handled in the United States,” Simcox said. “This recent White House visit suggests that the citizen lawyers being trained at William & Mary Law School are making very positive strides in this direction.”