During a ceremony at William & Mary Law School on Wednesday, May 20, the Law School’s Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic received a $25,000 grant from the Dominion Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Dominion Resources, parent company of Dominion Virginia Power.
“Dominion Foundation is joining William & Mary Law School in supporting work on behalf of veterans in procuring their disability benefits,” said Davison M. Douglas, dean of the Law School. “We now have a model we want to take to other law schools across the country; this support from Dominion Foundation is going to be of tremendous help.”
Douglas said the grant is evidence of Dominion’s corporate commitment to helping veterans, active duty military, and military families throughout the region they serve. Dominion is consistently ranked among the top companies in the United States in terms of support for veterans.
Hunter Applewhite, president of the Dominion Foundation, said that the Foundation gets behind many different causes with a common focus—the promise of tangible results. That includes veterans.
“I think you’ll find this applies not just to the company, but to the Foundation, that we’ve made a concerted effort to help veterans,” Applewhite said. “In fact, last year about 15 percent of our new hires were vets. Four years ago we piloted our Troops to Energy Jobs Program, which connects veterans leaving the service with jobs in the energy industry.”
Applewhite said there are other areas where veterans need help, which require specialized effort. And that’s where the Puller Clinic makes a particular difference.
“As America continues to demand extraordinary commitment and sacrifice from our uniformed men and women, it takes a formidable toll on them in many different ways,” Applewhite said. “So we have to help and be creative about it, which is why we are here today.”
Marine veteran and Puller Clinic client Michael O’Banion can speak from personal experience. While serving as an aircraft hydraulics and pneumatics mechanic during the height of the Cold War, he was hurt in the line of duty. After he started a family as a civilian, his medical claims began coming back denied and his disability benefits were drastically reduced. He couldn’t get any answers until he learned about the Puller Clinic.
Sharing his story at the Law School event, O’Banion referred to himself as “one of those veterans that got lost in the paperwork.” He believes Dominion’s donation will be money well spent to help others like him.
“I cannot say enough about the Puller Clinic; they are like angels with wings to me,” O’Banion said. “They’ve got more accomplished in six months than I got accomplished in 30 years by myself.”
Part of the Dominion Foundation’s grant will be used for seed funding for the National Law School Veterans Clinic Coalition, a recently established organization created to provide a unified voice to identify and advance the needs of law school veterans clinics and, more importantly, the veterans they serve. It will serve as an advocate before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Congress and other federal entities. With the seed funding from Dominion, it is hoped that the coalition will double its clinic membership in the coming year, and significantly increase the number of veterans served by law school clinics nationwide.
“On behalf of all of our faculty, students, and clients, I’m delighted to accept this donation from the Dominion Foundation,” said Patricia Roberts, Puller Clinic director and director of Clinical Programs. “While we cannot erase the burden that our veterans carry from their service, we can ease their burden in the claims process.”
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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.