WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WVEC) -- A major step forward in helping military veterans get all the benefits they earned.

The College of William and Mary has joined forces with two other colleges to create the "National law School Veterans Clinic Consortium."

"As a citizen, it is not just heart-breaking," said W&M Law Professor Patty Roberts. "it's disgraceful. We owe our veterans so much more."

Roberts says the roadblocks that the nation's 18 million veterans face in getting the benefits they earned from the Department of Veterans Affairs are great.

Since 2008, the law school's Lewis B. Puller JR. Veterans Benefits Clinic has succeeded in winning back more than a $ million in paid benefits, and more than $20 million in future lifetime benefits for local vets.

"Our students are tireless and passionate and this often inspires them to consider a career helping veterans or at least to do that as part of their pro bono programs," said Roberts.

Now, the William and Mary Puller Clinic has joined forces with similar clinics at the Stetson University College of Law, and, the John Marshall Law School, as founding members, to create the non-profit National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium.

They are among more than 50 veterans clinics at law schools today, up from about seven in 2008, and more are coming on line every year.

It's all about providing free, legal advocacy services for vets, to help them in applying for disability benefits, addressing civil legal needs and assisting in veterans treatment courts.

The thought being, there's strength in numbers, and no one clinic can do it all alone.

"We're really thrilled," said Roberts, who also serves as director of the Puller Clinic. "This is the result of more than 50 schools working together as an informal coalition. "We'll be able to help more veterans, train more law students, and help in the sharing of best practices with law clinics serving veterans nationwide."

The need for such services us huge. It's estimated that there are 1.4 million veterans living below the poverty line.