06 Feb VA Disability Representation – Understanding Your Options
When you are applying for disability compensation with the VA, there are several options for getting the help you need. But not all representatives are the same. It’s important to understand the differences and what they can and cannot do before choosing your VA disability representation.
Agent & Attorney Credentialing
When it comes to representing veterans, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has strict rules in place to make sure that representatives have a certain level of demonstrated competence. The Office of General Counsel is in charge of making sure those rules are set forth and met.
There are four types of VA disability representation: (1) Non-attorney Agents (sometimes called “advocates”), (2) Representatives, (3) Attorneys, and (4) Veterans Service Organizations (VSO). Technically, VSO’s are organizations, so the individuals who work for them are either attorneys, agents, or representatives. Still, these are the basic four categories available.
1- Veterans Service Organizations (VSO)
VSO’s are nonprofit organizations, established for the purpose of helping veterans. You may already know about some of them, such as Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), or the American Legion. Most states and even many counties have their own VSO’s. These organizations may obtain accreditation to assist veterans with their initial claims for disability. There are, however, limits on what they can do. VSO’s may not charge a fee, but for this reason many will also not assist with appeals, opting only to handle initial claims. Likewise, very few VSO’s employ attorneys. Therefore, most of their work is limited to completing forms.
Under 38 C.F.R. 14.629, the federal regulations say that to become a representative, a VSO completes an application requesting that the person be registered as a representative of the organization. Representatives must meet a character standard, pass a test, and complete 1,000 hours per year of employment in their capacity as a representative of the VSO.
3- Non-Attorney Agents
Much like a representative, agents are individuals who wish to assist veterans outside of a VSO. They, too, must complete an examination. Anyone may represent a veteran in single, one-time claim by completing a VA Form 21-22a.
4- Accredited Attorneys
In order to be accredited by the VA as an attorney, a person must hold an active law license and be in good standing before at least one state bar. The attorney must undergo continuing legal education credits on a regular basis to keep updated on VA laws and regulations. Attorneys generally hold, at a minimum, a 4-year college degree followed by a 3-year juris doctorate (J.D.). Although, there are a few states that allow licensure without a J.D.
Although attorneys are permitted to charge for their services, one of the best benefits of using an attorney (as opposed to an agent or VSO) is that they are trained and experienced in dealing with legal arguments, interpreting laws, and they can assist with other related issues that may arise.
Hire An Experienced South Carolina VA Accredited Attorney
Contact Klok Disability Law, LLC today to speak with a VA accredited attorney. In addition to providing quality VA disability representation, our attorneys can help with all of your legal needs. Just remember, the earlier you get help, the sooner you can get your claim heard by the VA. And if you’ve already been denied, there are strict deadlines for appealing. The call is free – you have nothing to lose by contacting an attorney today.