Veterans helping veterans

The Georgia State Reserves Officers Training Corp office has teamed up with the College of Law to create a veterans legal clinic. PHOTO BY RALPH HERNANDEZ | THE SIGNAL

After Georgia State’s veteran legal clinic opened earlier this semester, many volunteers said veterans are benefiting from its services in a multitude of ways.

At the clinic veterans can find help with domestic issues, disability claims and pension claims.

Army veteran and Atlanta attorney Steven Shewmaker is one of the clinic’s volunteers and said he was glad to see long-term change in the attitude towards men and women of the armed services during the facility’s opening ceremony on Veteran’s Day (Nov. 11).

“You all have volunteered to be here because you want to help veterans because something happened, and you believe personally, or your family cultivated in you, that this is a good thing to do,” he said. “And it wasn’t always that way.”

More than 70 law students have offered to volunteer in the clinic with the exchange of course credit. Many are also veterans, according to Shewmaker.

At the clinic’s opening, Steve Kaminshine, Dean of the College of Law, said the new resource is a way for volunteers to find inspiration through representing veterans.

He also said the clinic came about at the insistence of Army veteran and lawyer Norman Zoller.

Zoller is the coordinator of the Georgia State Bar Military Legal Services Program.

He previously approached the College of Law about opening a veteran’s legal clinic on campus and the college wasn’t ready, according to Kaminshine. However, Zoller was passionate and patient enough that when he re-approached the College of Law, the school was ready.

Zoller said he is excited about the clinic and for the students that have volunteered there.

“We’re getting older every day. Some day it’ll be your turn,” Zoller said at the opening. “So what you learn by virtue of taking part in this program I think will be beneficial to you for the rest of your careers, and you will learn things as a part of this. In counseling with veterans that have real problems, it will be beneficial in ways that will surprise you.”

There are more than 800 veterans enrolled at Georgia State, according to Zoller.

Benjamin Lynde, student assistant at the College of Law and former Georgia National Guard member, said he asses veterans’ legal issues and directs them to a student / volunteer attorney when they call the clinic.

“The program is really cool because all of our volunteer attorneys are veterans as well experienced attorneys,” Lynde said.

Lynde also said the clinic had already been operating and assisting veterans weeks before its official opening.

“We have been making sure we have the right structures in place to get aid as effectively as possible for students,” he said. “This is us officially opening our doors and letting the school know we are here.”

The mantra of the clinic is ‘veterans helping veterans’, according to Lynde.

Lynde also said he would like to help students veterans with their military service discharge upgrades.

“Upgrades are sought by veterans in order to get access to other benefits that their current level of discharge does not allow for, such as VA benefits,” he said. “It’s a service that we are offering, but not one that we have dealt with yet.”

The legal clinic is the newest addition to the services offered to veterans by Georgia State. Information about the office of disability and counseling center can be found online at the Georgia State military outreach page.

Student veterans can make an appointment for a consultation at the legal clinic on the College of Law website.