The Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic at William & Mary Law School is slated to receive $245,000 in funding from the Commonwealth of Virginia in FY2015/16 through the state budget passed by the Virginia General Assembly last week. This legislation is now before Governor McAuliffe for his approval.
William & Mary Law School’s Puller Clinic provides free legal representation to injured veterans seeking disability benefits from the Veterans Administration. Since its founding in 2008, the Puller Clinic has represented more than 100 veterans with their disability claims – all of whom suffered an injury or illness as a result of their military service. Almost all of them are Virginia residents.
"We are enormously grateful that the General Assembly has made this important investment in the Commonwealth's wounded warriors who served our nation," said Davison M. Douglas, dean of William & Mary Law School.
The new state funding will support two and a half staff positions that will enable the Puller Clinic to increase the number of veterans that it can assist.
"This generous support for staffing at the Puller Clinic will allow us to continue to serve veterans as they face the daunting disability claims process,” said Professor of Law Patricia Roberts, who directs the Law School’s Clinical Programs. “The caseload demand at the Puller Clinic is growing. Without the additional personnel made possible by the state’s funding, we would be unable to serve many Virginia veterans who need legal assistance.”
Since its inception, the Puller Clinic has encouraged other law schools across the nation to establish their own veterans benefits clinics. In 2014, the Puller Clinic hosted a national conference in Washington for the purpose of helping other law schools create legal clinics to serve veterans. Today, more than forty law schools have established legal clinics and programs focused on serving veterans and service members. The Puller Clinic also works with law firms that want to create pro bono initiatives to help veterans and trains attorneys interested in volunteering.
The Puller Clinic has partnered with other institutions of higher education in Virginia in its work. These partners include Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason, and Radford universities, each of which provides psychological evaluations to veterans at fees significantly lower than the private sector. Currently the Puller Clinic and these psychological evaluations are funded through the William & Mary Law School and from individual, corporate and foundation donors.
The General Assembly approved the funding for the Puller Clinic on February 26 with support from key members including Del. Chris Jones, chair of the House Appropriations Committee; Sen. Majority Leader Tommy Norment; Sen. Walter Stosch, co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee and Del. Chris Stolle, among others.
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.