What Is An Accredited VA Attorney? Why Should Veterans Use An Accredited VA Attorney When Filing For VA Compensation or VA Pension Benefits?

An accredited VA attorney is an attorney who has been granted the authority by the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) to prepare, present and prosecute claims for veterans benefits before the VA.

Accreditation refers to the authority granted by the VA to those attorneys who meet the standards established by the VA. VA’s stated purpose in requiring attorney accreditation is to ensure that claimants for VA benefits receive “qualified assistance in preparing and presenting their claims.”

To receive accreditation, federal law requires an applicant to pass a written examination and to complete continuing education covering, at a minimum, the following topics: VA representation, disability compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation and pension benefits, claim procedures, eligibility requirements, and appeal rights. An attorney must establish that he or she is of good character and reputation. Once accredited, the attorney must maintain specified standards of conduct and comply with the laws that govern VA representations, as set forth in the United States Code and the Code of Federal Regulations.

Attorneys who do not receive VA accreditation are prohibited by federal law from assisting claimants in the preparation, presentation and prosecution of VA claims, even if that assistance is provided by the attorney free of charge. Unaccredited attorneys may only provide limited services to veterans, such as providing general information about VA benefits, and may not assist veterans in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of their claims.

In general, an accredited attorney cannot charge a VA claimant for assistance in filing an eligibility verification report (“EVR”); in order to charge legal fees for representation before VA, the agency must have issued an adverse decision on a VA claim for benefits, and the claimant must have filed a notice of disagreement (NOD), or an appeal, with respect to that adverse decision.

The VA accreditation system is designed to ensure that lawyers who represent VA claimants have a thorough understanding of the VA health and benefit systems, so that they may provide quality assistance in the preparation, presentation and prosecution of those claims.

Donald D. Vanarelli, Esq., owner of this weblog, is one of the few attorneys in New Jersey accredited by the VA to assist veterans in preparing, presenting and prosecuting claims for veterans benefits (Accreditation No. 9747). In addition to being accredited as a VA attorney, Mr. Vanarelli is also certified as an elder law attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation, accredited by the American Bar Association. Elder law is the legal practice of representing older or disabled persons and their representatives in various matters including financing long-term medical care, nursing home issues, qualifying for Medicare, Medicaid and other public benefits, estate planning and administration, trust creation and administration, probate, retirement benefit disputes, estate litigation and guardianships. These combined distinctions allow Mr. Vanarelli to provide veterans and their families with advice on complex areas of law concerning long-term care planning, including VA pension benefits and the related issue of Medicaid benefits. In addition, Chen Li, Esq., an attorney with Mr. Vanarelli’s law firm, is also an accredited VA attorney.