UGA School of Law to open clinic for local vets this month

Lawyers in Athens GAAs reported in the Red & Black, veterans in the Athens area will be able to receive legal assistance from the Veterans Legal Clinic run by the University of Georgia School of Law. The clinic is slated to open later this month.

According to a UGA Today press release, veterans seeking benefits and services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will be helped by law students to settle their claims.

Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge, dean of the UGA law school, said the clinic will offer veterans with requested assistance while giving students a chance 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.

Read more: Lawyers in Athens, Georgia

Georgia is home to about 752,000 veterans, the ninth highest of any state, according to Ballotpedia.

The clinic was 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 more than three decades in public service, will be the director of 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 said he worked for almost two years with the Athens Veterans Affair Clinic, the Athens Veterans Court, policymakers, five UGA departments and several veterans to create 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 once they return from the military.

Scherr said the clinic would be focusing on making sure 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 veteranslegalclinic@uga.edu