Military Mondays a Summer Success for Veterans Benefits Clinic

  • Military Mondays
    Military Mondays  Over coffee at Starbucks, veterans were able to get help from members of the Puller Veterans Benefits Clinic this summer.  Photo by David F. Morrill
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Military Mondays, a pilot program developed by William and Mary Law School's Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic and Starbucks, has concluded its first successful summer of outreach.

The program made an immediate stir in the national press with the Associated Press publishing a story that was carried by a number of media outlets, including The Washington Post, Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle, Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Virginian-Pilot, Daily Press, WVEC 13News Now, Charlottesville Newsplex, WSET ABC 13 (Lynchburg, VA), Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Connecticut Post, and Stars & Stripes.

Military Mondays were piloted in coordination with Starbuck’s Armed Forces Network and launched in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, which is home to several military bases, upwards of 100,000 active-duty and reserve personnel and thousands of veterans. All Military Monday events were held at the McLaws Circle Starbucks, not far from William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg.

“One of the reasons for the impressive success of Military Mondays is the thoughtful and thorough preparation and support provided by the Starbucks store hosting our efforts,” said Patricia Roberts, director of the Puller Clinic. “The partnership is a natural fit given the Puller Clinic’s dedication to serving those who served, and Starbucks’ express commitment to our men and women in uniform, veterans and their families.”

The program held its first  “Claims over Coffee” event on June 29, when Puller Clinic representatives met with veterans and service members by appointment, and accommodated those who stopped in for coffee. Veterans received free advice and counsel regarding disability compensation benefits, service members preparation for separation, and referrals to additional community resources.

On alternate Mondays, guest speakers held “For Love of Country Community Conversations,” providing opportunities for topical presentations and a space for veterans and service members to gather with community members.

During each event, veterans and service members shared stories, discussed challenges, informed civilian community members and students of the realities of service to country, and helped bridge the military-civilian divide.

In July, the first Community Conversation was led by Mary Beth Heller, Director of Virginia Commonwealth University's Center for Psychological Services and Development, and a partner of the Puller Clinic. In a discussion entitled “How Our Community Can Aid Veterans' Reintegration,” Heller discussed the challenges facing veterans and offered suggestions on how the community can maximize support for their reintegration.

Two weeks later, Billy Roberts, a graduate of Hampton Roads Academy and current Yale student, spoke about the importance of contemporaneous record-keeping for active duty service members.

In August, William & Mary graduate Sam Pressler ’15, Founder of the Armed Services Arts Partnership and William & Mary Center for Veterans Engagement, led an open conversation on the role of community, the arts, and education in fostering a healthy and successful transition.

Finally, Helena S. Mock, Managing Attorney and Clinical Instructor of William & Mary Law School’s Elder Law Clinic attorney and founder of the Peninsula Center for Estate Planning and Elder Law, spoke about “Aid & Attendance, Pensions, and Estate Issues for Veterans and Service Members.”

Discussions were facilitated by Puller Clinic staff and students, and other members of the William & Mary community.

Over the summer, three Puller Clinic attorneys and five students met with 28 veterans, service members, and family members in individual appointments on five Monday afternoons. Clinic members will continue to meet with veterans two Monday afternoons per month, and will be transferring the community conversations over to a newly dedicated Starbucks Military Family Store in Norfolk.

“We have had an extremely successful pilot and are ready to help replicate this  effective outreach program,” Roberts said. “The Puller Clinic is available to provide technical support and  best practices to aspiring partners. We look forward to working with Starbucks to spread this model nationally.”

Already five additional law schools and a legal aid organization have expressed interest in starting similar programs in their area.

About William & Mary Law School

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.