Who Can Legally Assist Veterans With VA Claims, Who Can Charge A Fee For Providing Assistance With VA Claims And When Can A Veteran Be Charged A Fee?

Based upon comments I’ve read on blogs throughout the blogosphere, there appears to be a great deal of confusion about about three issues involving VA benefits: who can assist a veteran or veteran’s family with a claim for VA benefits; who can charge a fee for providing assistance to a veteran; and, when can the veteran be charged a fee?

First, who can assist a veteran or veteran’s family with a claim for VA benefits? The law is very specific in that ONLY the following may assist a claimant for VA benefits in filing a claim:

  • A VA accredited attorney
  • A VA accredited agent
  • A Veterans Service Organization
  • A VA Regional Office representative
  • A private individual with one-time permission to assist a claimant

Simply stated, no person or organization, other than those listed above, may counsel, coach, or assist a veteran or veteran’s family in any way whatsoever with an application for benefits once the claimant has expressed “an intent” to file a claim for VA benefits.

Second, who can charge a fee, or financially benefit in any way, for providing assistance to a veteran or veteran’s family in filing a claim for benefits? The law is very specific in that no individual or organization that has a financial interest in the outcome of a claim may be charged a fee [or pay a fee in any way] for assistance with an initial application for benefits.  This includes the clamant, his/her immediate family members, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, home care agencies, and virtually anyone who could gain financially from the outcome of the claim.

Third, when can a veteran or his family be charged a fee for providing assistance in filing a claim for benefits? The only time a fee for assisting a veteran or his family may be charged is when the initial application has been denied and an appeal has been filed.  Even then, only a VA accredited attorney or accredited agent may charge a fee for work on the appeal. Moreover, the fee must be approved by the Office of the General Counsel in Washington, D.C.  Without such approval, no fee may be charged.

The reality is that a VA accredited attorney is truly the only person who can offer the broad spectrum of assistance most often needed by a claimant, and who can ensure that the claimant is able to qualify for both VA and for Medicaid (if this becomes necessary in the future).  Unless such a lawyer is involved, the result often is a failure to adequately protect the claimant’s ability to get help with future nursing home placement.

If you have further questions or would like to check on whether or not an individual or company is operating legally, please contact the VA’s Office of the General Counsel.

Source: Veterans Advocates Group of America