Stetson University and USF Health form first-of-a-kind partnership to help veterans

GULFPORT, Fla.— Stetson University College of Law and the University of South Florida are joining forces to help Florida veterans through supportive clinical services, collaborative student training and joint research.  The collaboration will help veterans negotiate an often complex system so that they may secure disability benefits to which they are entitled.

This partnership is believed to be the first of its kind pairing students and faculty from a law school and an academic health center to help serve veterans.

“Our goal is to serve Florida’s veteran population by helping them secure the benefits they have rightfully earned from the Department of Veterans Affairs while providing an integrated, interdisciplinary learning opportunity for our law students as they gain practical, legal experience in working directly with clients and professionals in other disciplines,” said Christopher M. Pietruszkiewicz, dean of Stetson University College of Law. Pietruszkiewicz has championed veterans programs at Stetson Law by expanding the law school’s Veterans Law Institute and Veterans Advocacy Clinic.

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Associate Dean and Professor of Law Michael Allen directs Stetson’s Veterans Law Institute, and Professor Stacey-Rae Simcox was recently selected to lead the Veterans Advocacy Clinic.

The new program will assist veterans in proving entitlement to disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and help the V.A. make more accurate decisions on complicated medical claims.  It will also team law students with medical, nursing, public health, pharmacy, and physical therapy students to enhance learning and practice in health care and legal services – a compelling need for providing services to veterans in our communities.

Graduate students at Stetson’s law school and USF Health’s colleges will work together to augment and streamline the process of serving their veteran clients and patients. Stetson’s Veterans Advocacy Clinic faculty and students will coordinate medical and related clinical case reviews and analyses with USF Health faculty and students where appropriate.  This is expected to be especially important in strengthening and refining diagnoses for certain physical and behavioral health issues and facilitating efficient and effective processing of benefit applications and appeals.

Stetson Law students and USF Health students will teach each other about the practical skills and knowledge associated with legal and clinical standards and processes required for disability eligibility and successful receipt of benefits. Legal and health care advocacy will come together to improve access to, quality of and receipt of benefits.

“This new partnership with Stetson is another example of USF’s commitment to helping veterans successfully reintegrate into civilian life when they leave the military,” said Charles Lockwood, MD, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine. “The multidisciplinary collaboration will give our students the opportunity to learn from one another while serving Florida’s veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much in service to our country.”

Stetson’s work in the area of veterans clinics is nationally acclaimed, and USF has been distinguished as one of the nation’s leading veteran-friendly universities.

To learn more about the Veterans Advocacy Clinic at Stetson, visit www.stetson.edu/law/veterans.

About Stetson University College of Law

Stetson University College of Law, Florida’s first law school, has prepared lawyers and leaders since 1900. Today, Stetson leads the nation in blending legal doctrine with practical training, evidenced by its top-ranked programs in advocacy and legal writing. Through our academically rigorous curriculum and commitment to social responsibility, Stetson lawyers are ethical advocates ready to succeed in the legal profession.  

About USF Health

USF Health’s mission is to envision and implement the future of health. It is the partnership of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, the College of Pharmacy, the School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences; and the USF Physician’s Group. USF Health is an integral part of the University of South Florida, a high-impact, global research university dedicated to student success. For more information, visit www.health.usf.edu

Media contacts:
Brandi Palmer, Stetson Law Communications Office,  (727) 562-7381
Anne DeLotto Baier, USF Health Communications, (813) 974-3303 or abaier@health.usf.edu