Veterans in the Athens area will soon be able to receive legal assistance from the Veterans Legal Clinic run by the University of Georgia School of Law. The clinic is expected to open later this month.
According to a UGA Today press release, veterans who are seeking benefits and services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will be assisted by law students to settle their claims.
Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge, dean of the UGA law school, said that the clinic will provide veterans with requested assistance while giving students an opportunity to gain legal experience.
“We are excited about the positive impact we believe this clinic will have on those who have served our nation and their families as well as the opportunity it will provide our students to receive real world experience that will prepare them for future careers,” Rutledge said in the press release.
Georgia is home to approximately 752,000 veterans, the ninth highest of any state, according to Ballotpedia.
The clinic was first announced last fall. Initial funding was donated by trial attorney and 1977 law school alumnus James E. “Jim” Butler Jr., in memory of his father, Lt. Cmdr. James E. Butler Sr., who was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy.
Alexander W. “Alex” Scherr, a lawyer with over 30 years in public service, will direct the clinic.
“No veteran should be denied benefits simply because they cannot afford legal assistance. We know that the involvement of an attorney can make a tremendous difference in outcome with regard to denied or deferred claims before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,” Scherr said. “Our No. 1 goal is to improve how former servicemen and women receive assistance from the nation they have served.”
Kayla Upchurch, a law student from Augusta, said in an interview with The Red & Black last September that this hands-on experience with veterans is “invaluable [...] in terms of seeing our hard work in action.”
UGA law professor Randy Beck, head of the 28-member committee responsible for organizing the proposal of the clinic, emphasized that student involvement was crucial for this project.
Beck said he worked for nearly two years with the Athens Veterans Affair Clinic, the Athens Veterans Court, policymakers, five UGA departments and several veterans to compose the final proposal.
In the report, Beck paid special attention to the service-related injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, and how those injuries can affect veterans lack of receiving legal assistance upon their return from the military.
Scherr said the clinic would be focussing on ensuring veterans have access to benefits and services provided to them by the VA, especially veterans with mental or physical disabilities resulting from their time spent in the military.
Veterans interested in visiting the clinic when it opens later this month can call 706-542-6439 or email email@example.com