The Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic at William & Mary Law School will begin a partnership next month with Starbucks to aid veterans and service members with their benefits claims process and promote community collaboration.
The program, “Military Mondays,” will be piloted in coordination with Starbuck’s Armed Forces Network and launched in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia – home to more than half-a-dozen active military bases, upwards of 100,000 active-duty and reserve personnel and thousands of veterans. Services will begin June 29 at the McLaws Circle Starbucks in Williamsburg, Virginia from 1 to 5 p.m. The program will be free to participants.
“Military Mondays” will help address the challenges veterans and service members face in the disability claims process, and provide a place for veterans, service members and their families to find community, conversation and information.
“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,” said Professor Patty Roberts, director of the Puller Clinic. “These gatherings have the potential to aid reintegration for those who served, and increase the understanding among civilians of the sacrifices being made by our men and women who bravely serve our country. “
“Military Mondays” will provide veterans with access to pro bono legal advice and counsel regarding veterans venefits from Puller Clinic faculty and students and access to Starbuck’s already developed military community. During any given month, representatives from the Puller Clinic will offer “Claims over Coffee” advice and counsel on two of the Mondays, “For Love of Country Community Conversations” with topical presentations aimed at veterans, service members and their families will be held on the other two Mondays. The Starbucks franchise will provide space and promotion for the events. “Claims over Coffee” will be by appointment at 757-221-7443 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Those without appointments will be helped as availability allows. A monthly schedule will be available in local Starbucks stores and on the Puller Clinic website.
The Starbucks Armed Forces Network (AFN) is part of a company sponsored program to support Starbucks partners (employees). Unique Turner, president of the Southeast Chapter, noted that AFN’s mission is to support Starbucks' military partners, support transitioning military and military families, and create a veteran friendly workplace. The company’s website notes these networks allow partners to connect across issues of common interest and celebrate special achievements.
“At Starbucks, we respect and honor our Partners who are veterans and military spouses for their leadership, sacrifice and demonstrated level of commitment to their country,” Turner said.
In 2013, Starbucks launched a nationwide initiative to support the military community with a commitment to hire at least 10,000 veterans and spouses by the end of 2018 and provide support to the communities where those veterans live and work.
William & Mary’s Puller Clinic was established in 2008 and provides free legal representation to injured veterans seeking disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans receive pro bono assistance that often includes evaluation and diagnosis by psychological and other medical professionals, and factual and legal investigation and analysis, Roberts said.
“This holistic approach results in a comprehensive claims package, fully supported by both factual and medical evidence, and all at no cost to the veteran,” Roberts added.
Earlier this year, the Clinic received $245,000 from the Commonwealth of Virginia in its annual budget. The 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.
For the Puller Clinic, “Military Mondays” continues a tradition of local and national outreach. The clinic is at the forefront of an effort to encourage law schools nationwide to provide programs focused on serving veterans and service members, Roberts noted, and also works with law firms that want to create pro bono initiatives to help veterans.
While the “Military Mondays” pilot initiative will launch in Hampton Roads, both partners hope to expand the program nationwide.
“Starbucks is already a demonstrated leader among corporations in their steadfast commitment to our service members and veterans. This is yet one more example of Starbucks’ initiative in embracing creative problem solving to meet the challenges of the public sector with private support. We are grateful to have Starbucks as a partner and eager to incorporate lessons learned during the pilot to plan the next phase of the program,” said Roberts.