BY: Andrew J. Wolf

On February 2, 2013, several student representatives from the Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic travelled to Portsmouth, where they volunteered with Habitat for Humanity. Habitat of South Hampton Roads has a special program called Habitat for Heroes, where all of their projects benefit veterans.

Our project began with a small house. We worked to gut the inside of the existing structure and to build a three-bedroom addition onto the back of the house. Once we arrived, we set to work building the beginning of the frame on the back of the house. After a few lessons on how to use a nail gun and a miter saw, we began to attach the frame to the concrete blocks and build what would support the floor of the addition. The Habitat employees and volunteers were tremendously helpful and accomplished a difficult task: teaching law students to measure accurately and accomplish a task that involved neither a computer nor a stack of paper.

Volunteering for Habitat for Heroes taught me several lessons about being an attorney, lessons I might not have learned if it were not for the Veterans Benefits Clinic. First, clients always have concerns outside the legal matter about which they seek an attorney. Current conflict veterans may be concerned about getting a civilian job or otherwise providing for their family, for example. Providing quality legal services to a client is vital, although it may only relieve some of a client’s concerns. Second, even when you have hours to meet and demanding clients, it is important to volunteer some of your time. Volunteering could mean taking on clients pro bono or reserving time to work on projects like Habitat for Humanity. Volunteer projects not only give you a personal sense of accomplishment, but also show that your organization cares about the community it serves.

The Veterans Benefits Clinic is about helping our clients obtain the benefits to which they are legally entitled, but the Clinic also recognizes that veterans returning from service may need more than legal benefits. Volunteering for Habit has been one of many clinic experiences that have taught me what it means to be an attorney that cares, and that lesson will stay with me throughout my practice.

 

For more information on Habitat for Heroes of South Hampton Roads, see their website at http://shrhabitat.org/habitatforheroes.php.

By: Evin Stovall

The Lewis B. Puller Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic recently held an outreach at Freedom House in Richmond, Virginia.  There, Clinic students paired with partners and associates from McGuire Woods, helped homeless veterans.  Clinic students issued a brief presentation to the veterans that covered the basics of VA disability compensation and pension benefits.  After the presentation, Clinic students paired with McGuire Woods’ attorneys to meet individually with veterans to discuss the veterans’ service history and to provide the veterans with information about how to file claims with the VA.

 

The clinic’s outreach is timely given the approaching Thanksgiving Day holiday.  Our modern holiday is rife with overindulgence—eating, spectator sports, and most of all, the infamous ‘Black Friday’ sales in which Americans shop to the point of stampedes for discount rates on disposable consumer goods.

 

It is important to remember what our first President and Commander in Chief said on October 3, 1789.  President Washington stated:

 

Both Houses of Congress…requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

 

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being…That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks…and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness.[1]

 

His words were words of thanks and gratefulness for the end of the Revolution and for the fact that the country he loved and helped found was a union of “tranquility” and “plenty.”  We too should remember to give thanks to the men and women who have given it their all and to those whose lives are irrevocably changed as a result of their military service.  Our nation owes our current “degree of tranquility, union, and plenty” to those veterans, and as such, we should remember to honestly give thanks for the Country in which we live and those who defend it.

 

Furthermore, as evidenced by the Clinic’s recent outreach and by previous posts on this blog detailing the issues and concerns surrounding Veterans’ issues, we should remember that thanks must be must more then a mere platitude—it must include action to ensure veterans receive adequate health care and compensation for injuries, both visible and hidden, incurred as a result of their service.  As such, please remember the real meaning of Thanksgiving this year and remember the veterans who have helped defend the blessings we enjoy by remaining cognizant of their sacrifice.



[1] George Washington, “Thanksgiving Proclamation,” October 3, 1789 accessed at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gwhtml/gw004.html.

The Lewis B. Puller, Jr Veterans Benefits Clinic has officially entered the Blogosphere.  Check in periodically to learn about the Clinic, what it’s doing, and about veterans benefits law.