Laurie Neff is the director of George Mason University School of Law’s Clinic for Legal Assistance to Servicemembers. CLASV allows students to represent active-duty members of the armed forces, their families and veterans in civil and administrative, litigation and non-litigation matters, such as consumer-protection, landlord-tenant, family law, contracts, and military law and entitlement matters, according to the university website. I asked Neff for a few more specifics about this encouraging program and how Americans in general can better support our military servicemen.
Can you explain a little about how your program helps veterans who are facing injustices?
“We represent veterans who are being denied benefits they are rightly entitled to. For instance, one vet was trying to get 100 percent disability date off by seven years. We finally helped him get that. The rest of our cases typically involve service members that cannot afford to live in the Northern Virginia area because it's so incredibly expensive.”
Is this type of program equally rewarding for the students?
“Absolutely. I've had students from all over the place. I've had military students, I've had veterans, as well as students that have no connection to the military and I think for them it's the most rewarding because they get a glimpse into what it's like to serve. They’re giving back and they get real world experience. They get to put what they learned into practice, for a good cause.”
Will you be doing anything special for Military Appreciation Month?
“We celebrate military appreciation every month!”
How can the average person encourage our vets and active servicemen on a daily basis?
“I think just be supportive of what they do and understand that, while you may not understand what they're going through, that - understand that you don't understand is the best way to put it.
Be understanding of when they are struggling. Quite honestly, talking to them - particularly our young vets. Nobody's asking them if they're okay. Give them resources.”
If you see someone in uniform, just a simple smile or, “Thank you for your service” could do more than you know. What better day to practice than this Memorial Day?