Monday, August 21, 2017
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This is an online event. 



Diedra Cherry, Puller Clinic Legal Administrator 
William & Mary Law School Clinics 



Please click session below to register. Please note session specific registration open and close dates. Thank you!

July 16-September 9: registration opens May 14 and closes on July 9

September 24-November 18: registration opens July 23 and closes on September 17


William & Mary Law School's Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic is now offering the first-of-its-kind online Certificate in Military and Veterans Health, Policy and Advocacy (MVHPA).

The curriculum can be helpful to a variety of individuals, including attorneys, advocates, law students, veterans, service members, transition personnel, legal officers, veteran services officers, family members and caregivers. There is a discount for veterans and active duty service members.

Benefits of the Certificate:

  • Learn from William & Mary Law School experts about the legal and psychological challenges facing service members and veterans today, and how to help them as a volunteer, or in veteran-serving employment.
  • Develop persuasive writing skills in order to effectively advocate for service members and veterans in the disability and discharge upgrade systems.
  • Gain the necessary knowledge and skills, and the education required, for accreditation by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in order to successfully represent veterans in the disability compensation process.
  • Obtain a distinguishing credential demonstrating intensive training in veterans benefits law, skill in persuasive advocacy, knowledge of separations and discharges and how to address them, legislative policy work, and the psychological challenges our service members and veterans face.


Successful completion of all four courses in the MVHPA curriculum will lead to a non-degree Certificate, however courses can also be taken individually. The program will be entirely online and asynchronous, with classes offered pass-fail. The Certificate can be obtained in a minimum of two eight-week terms, or a maximum of four eight-week terms, with students able to complete the courses in the Certificate at their own pace. We have applied for CLE credit in Virginia and the state bar is still considering our application; upon request we will provide students with information for them to pursue credit in other jurisdictions. During the initial eight-week term, starting in August 2017, only Courses 1 and 2 will be offered; in subsequent eight-week terms, all four courses will be offered. Courses are taught by Puller Clinic Faculty and Fellows experienced in these areas and include:

1. Veterans Disability Benefits:

This course will equip advocates for veterans to pursue claims for VA disability compensation benefits. It will thoroughly explain the nature of disability benefits, eligibility criteria, and VA’s adjudication process for awarding benefits. The course will enable students to assess the potential merit of claims, to develop the evidence necessary to establish entitlement, to work with healthcare providers and other resources to acquire this evidence, to prepare comprehensive claims and craft effective arguments in support of them, and to engage successfully with a complex and challenging federal agency bureaucracy. The course will also explore measures that active duty service members can take to enhance their chances of obtaining VA benefits in the future. This course will include the topics required to satisfy the Department of Veterans Affairs' accreditation and re-accreditation education requirements for attorneys and advocates. Because less-than-honorable discharges can negatively affect veterans benefits, the course will also discuss the basics of advocating for veterans in discharge upgrade cases and through the VA’s Character of Service Determination process.


2. Legal Research and Writing for Advocacy:  

Advocacy for service members and veterans is accomplished almost exclusively in writing.  It is vitally important, therefore, for advocates to be able to present clear and concise arguments on behalf of claimants.  This course begins with a review of how written language is structured and how it communicates.  Then the course will explore who our readers are and what pressures and limitations they have on them, and how, in turn, those pressures and limitations dictate how writing must be constructed to address bureaucratic decision makers effectively.  These skills will serve advocates in various contexts, such as claims for VA disability compensation or other benefits and proceeding concerning military administrative separation or discharge issues.


3. Application of Techniques for Military and Veteran Advocacy:

 The initial two courses in the Certificate program exposed students to the law and processes of veterans disability benefits and to the principles of writing in the advocacy context.  This course supplies supplementary material on certain specialized aspects of veteran advocacy, such as separations and discharges, and provides practical experience applying the knowledge and skills developed in the first courses, as students engage in developing claims, mastering the various forms and approaches necessary to engage with the VA, and crafting legal arguments in support of veterans’ claims.  


    4.   Psychological Challenges and Resulting Legal Issues for Service Members and Veterans:

    This course will focus on the psychological impact of trauma and the resultant consequences experienced by some veterans and members of the military, including post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, depression, military sexual trauma and moral injury. A focus on coping, resilience, and post-traumatic growth will be included. In addition to learning about each of these health challenges and how they are identified and treated, the course will explore how service members and veterans can obtain medical assistance and disability compensation benefits, including issues related to findings of competency and assignments of fiduciaries for purposes of receiving benefits. When appropriate, legislative and policy issues related to these injuries may be explored. Students may learn through case studies, texts, or articles.

      Tuition is as follows:

      Non-Degree Certificate Enrollee

      Price Per Individual Eight-Week Online Course

      Discounted Price for All Four Courses and Resultant Non-Degree Certificate




      Veteran or Service Member