WILLIAMSBURG—With the Department of Veterans Affairs seemingly hopelessly behind on processing benefits claims, the College of William and Mary’s Marshall-Wythe School of Law is stepping in to help.
Law students have set up the non-profit Lewis B. Puller Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic to help veterans cut through red tape. Students analyze medical records, communicate with health-care providers and craft strategies to help clients receive benefits they earned.
Right now, the Department of Veterans Affairs has 865,989 pending claims for disability and pension benefits. Officials say 606,007 of those cases have not been acted upon for more than 125 days.
“There’s no way the V.A. is going to be able to fix them by themselves, and we all need to step up as Americans and fill the gap and help them do their job better. This is one model to be able to do that,” said William and Mary Law Professor Stacey-Rae Simcox.
The students have enjoyed some success, helping their clients get their disability ratings increased by an average of more than 26 percent, earning vets an additional $520,000 in benefits.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has called for an elimination of all claims backlogs by 2015.