WILLIAMSBURG--The College of William and Mary Marshall-Wythe School of Law's Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic is being cited by the U.S. Senate for its work to help vets get the benefits they earned.
Virginia Senator Mark Warner this week won approval for a budget amendment which urges the Department of Veterans Affairs to work more closely with such clinics. William and Mary's was the first in the country. Today, there are more than forty.
After almost fourteen years of continuous war, the nation is still grappling with streamlining the benefits process. The backlog of first-time V.A . benefits claims unresolved for more than four months — sits at around 245,000 cases; That's down more than 250,000 cases since the start of 2013. But it's still a lot.
Professor Patty Roberts runs the seven-year old Puller clinic. There, law students analyze medical records, communicate with health care providers and craft strategies to help vets get their benefits;. It's all about cutting through red tape.
Since 2008, the students, for free, have helped recover nearly $800,000 in owed benefits, representing more than 100 vets, supplying more than a half million dollars worth of pro-bono legal services per year for traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder clients.
"It's good for the veterans, it's good for the law students, it's obviously good for the taxpayers," said Warner. "The V.A. has been very slow in adopting his. This would help nudge something along that has been uniformly supported."
Roberts said she's grateful for the senator's support. "And this development we think will be very helpful, because it will in a revenue neutral way allow the V.A. if it chooses to use some the budget to work with the law school clinics." she said.
Additionally, the Virginia General Assembly this year ok'd a $245,000 appropriation for William and Mary to hire an additional attorney, a part-time psychologist and a full-time legal administrator. That measure is still awaiting the signature of Governor Terry McAuliffe.