Sen. Warner calls for nationwide expansion of veterans legal clinics

warnerU.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) urged the new U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs to authorize the nationwide expansion of the College of William & Mary pro bono veterans legal clinic model to help more military veterans get their complex V-A disability claims submitted properly and processed more quickly.

At least 15 other law schools across the country so far have adapted the W&M Puller Clinic model, which pairs law students with local veterans to assist in the preparation and submission of complex disability claims.

In 2013, the V-A endorsed the Puller Clinic program as a “best practice.”  In today’s letter to V-A Secretary Robert McDonald, Sen. Warner said designating the Puller Clinic as a V-A “Center for Excellence” will allow more rapid expansion of this proven pro bono model through other law schools and law firms across the country.  As a Center for Excellence, the Puller Clinic could organize V-A-approved annual and regional conferences to enlist additional law schools and law firms interested in pro bono support for veterans, prepare and disseminate training materials, and collect relevant data which tracks the effectiveness of this pro bono approach. Sen. Warner has championed the W&M Puller Clinic program for more than three years.

“We already know that a veteran’s disability claim submitted with help from the Puller Clinic gets approved by the V-A twice as fast as other claims. I am proud that we have been able to work with William & Mary to expand this model to 15 law clinics across Virginia and the country, but an enhanced seal of approval from the V-A would allow us to do even more,” Sen. Warner said. “The Puller Clinic model clearly represents a win-win-win: veterans receive the benefits they have earned more quickly, law students get practical experience while serving those who have served our country, and the V-A can trust that it has received a claim that is legitimate, thorough, and ready for expedited approval. We accomplish all of these worthy goals at no cost to the taxpayers, and I strongly encourage the V-A to partner with William & Mary to expand this successful program to help even more veterans.”

The Puller Clinic was the first law school clinic in the nation to be  certified by the V-A as a national “best practice” program, and its work helping veterans submit completed disability claims has been so successful that 15 other clinics across the country have created similar programs.  It has been estimated that the Puller Clinic program provides pro bono legal services to veterans that is worth a combined half-million dollars each year.

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