Traditionally, veterans are accustomed to working with veterans service organizations (VSO), like the Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, and Veterans of Foreign Wars. A service officer is not individually accredited. Accreditation is extended to the organization who purports to provide an important service for free and vouches that each service officer operating under their accreditation is well trained and will provide competent representation. VSOs operate intimately with the VA often obtaining free office space and direct access. The quality of representation various. Frequently, these organizations view themselves as partnering with the VA to administer the benefits. For the past 90 plus years, these organizations have essentially held a monopoly as professional advocates were prohibited from assisting a veteran unless they were willing to do it for a mere $10 fee or less.
For many years veterans have been frustrated by the limited choice in selecting quality representation. The freedom to hire someone with a vested interest in the outcome and the skill to leverage in your favor was limited by law. Advocates for hire, who specialize in VA law, to help with veterans disability claims for pension and compensation were prohibited. A new law was passed in 2007 that lifted the ban on hiring attorneys or especially skilled agents. It should be noted that there are some groups still trying to get this law changed back or trying to impose fee restrictions like capping fees. Hopefully these groups will be unsuccessful as giving veterans the choice in representation is critical to easing the process for veterans to get the benefits they earned through sacrifice.
If you are satisfied with your VSO, then we recommend that you stay with them as many of them are very skilled. However, if you feel that your case is too significant to leave to chance and you want to have a skilled advocate with a vested interest in the outcome, you can hire an independently accredited lawyer or agent.
So how will hiring an agent help you with your VA disability claim or appeal? Anyone who has any experience in dealing with the VA realizes that although the system is supposed to be “veteran friendly”, often it is anything but friendly. The laws that govern VA compensation and pension claims are extremely complex and many times difficult to understand. Agents are unique as they specialize in VA law. Finding an experienced agent to guide you through this complex appeal process is the best approach to getting the benefits that you earned.