As reported in the Athens Banner-Herald, the University of Georgia School of Law will launch a clinic to provide legal services to veterans, particularly those who received denials or deferrals for veteran benefits.
The clinic will partially be funded by Columbus plaintiff’s lawyer James E. Butler Jr., his law partner, Joel Wooten, and three other Columbus lawyers including Kenneth Henson Jr., Sanders Griffith II and Pete Robinson. All are UGA Law graduates except for Robinson who graduated from Mercer University’s law school.
Butler’s gift is dedicated to the memory of his late father, Lt. Comdr. James E. Butler Sr., a World War II Navy fighter pilot.
The Veterans Legal Services Clinic will offer first-rate training for UGA law students, as well as providing services to veterans and lawyers who represent veterans, according to UGA School of Law Dean Bo Rutledge.
Beginning next summer, the clinic’s director will act as a managing attorney, overseeing law students working directly with veterans or their dependents.
The center will also be a “center of excellence” so that independent lawyers might get assistance on cases in their own communities, such as model pleadings, or sharing experiences “so a particular lawyer won’t have to start from scratch,” Rutledge told the paper.
About 20 percent of Georgia’s nearly 752,000 veterans receive disability benefits, but many more who could benefit encounter obstacles to obtaining them, according to the committee’s report.
Statistics also show that veterans with legal representation have a much higher success rate in obtaining benefits than those who don’t.
Cases would be selected based on factors including veterans “disconnected from other services,” who may not have access to services; veterans who are homeless, mentally ill or of advanced age; and low-income veterans.
For 200 years, Butler’s forebears have served in the military, and Butler would have signed up during the Vietnam War if not for an auto accident that crippled him, he said.
“I never got to go. That may have a lot to do with my affinity for veterans,” he said.
With a law practice next to the Fort Benning army base in Columbus, Butler said he has represented dozens of veterans.
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