Your New Right to an Attorney.
It may seem hard to believe, but prior to June 20, 2007, it was illegal in this country for a veteran to hire an attorney to help in their claim for disability benefits within the VA system!. The argument was that the VA system was set up to take care of the veteran. Why would the veteran need to fight a system set up to help them with their injuries?. Officially, the law denied there was a problem with the system for decades! After years of fighting, you now have some of the same rights long provided civilians in their fight for disability claims under Social Security. You are no longer forced to accept the Veteran Administration's evaluation and decision regarding your injuries. You can now obtain a legal assessment of your case by an accredited attorney.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has amended its regulations, effective June 23, 2008, governing rights veterans now have for representation when presenting claim for veterans benefits. These regulations were written in order to implement provisions of the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act written by Congress and signed into law in 2006.
The purpose of these regulations is to fulfill the direction by Congress that agents and attorneys may be paid for services rendered after you have filed your Notice of Disagreement with the VA's assessment of your case, whether it is because the VA denied your claim outright, or because you disagree with the amount of disability the VA expects you to accept.
Congress has also directed the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that claimants for veterans benefits have responsible, qualified representation. No attorney, therefore may assist veterans in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims for VA benefits unless he or she has first been accredited by the VA for such purpose. See: 38 CFR Parts 1, 14, 19 and 20; Accreditation of Agents and Attorneys; Agent and Attorney Fees (See also Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 100 / Thursday, May 22, 2008 / Rules and Regulations). DATES: The final rule is effective June 23, 2008.
Your attorney must be accredited by the Veterans Administration, or have authorization by the VA in writing, to represent you, otherwise he or she is not authorized to present your claim. Please contact the Veterans Administration to verified whether your attorney is accredited, or to find an accredited attorney, for proper representation in securing your rights!
Your right to appeal
It may seem hard to believe, but prior to June 20, 2007, it was illegal in this country for a veteran to hire an attorney to help in their claim for disability benefits within the VA system! The argument was that the VA system was set up to take care of the veteran. Why would the veteran need to fight a system set up to help them with their injuries? Officially, the law denied there was a problem with the system for decades! Why appeal?:
Rather than a hypothetical situation, here is just one of many thousands of examples:
"While serving in the military I suffered serious injuries that would greatly affect my personal and economic life. After separating from the service I requested a medical evaluation from the Veterans Administration. Based on the obvious injury to a major muscle group and nerves, I was awarded a disability rating of 60%, but nothing for my broken back. It seemed apparent that my VA benefits were awarded much like my medals, they reviewed the facts, and gave you what they believed you deserved.
I first received a nice sized check for the monthly disability payments I earned, but had not yet received, backdated to the actual day I first applied for my. I would also receive educational benefits, a monthly disability check, and medical benefits for life.
As I didn't know anything about the VA before my discharge from the service, I was happy with these unexpected benefits. I completed my legal education with the education benefits I received, and gained some experience working with the Veterans Administration's legal department. After dealing with appeals by veterans who were denied benefits, or unhappy with the ratings they received, I became an expert on the laws the Veterans Administration used to determine benefits. I realized the VA had neglected some of my own injuries in evaluating my own disability rating.
Believing I had an expert knowledge of the system, I filed for an increase in benefits. The VA initially agreed to increase my benefits an additional 20%, and sent me another check for back payment, and increased my monthly disability check accordingly. The same problem remained, however, as the adjudication board continued to neglect some of my injuries, and denied me the complete disability rating that I knew I had earned during my service. I appealed the decision and won the rating I actually earned under the law, however, it was thirteen years after my initial rating.
If I had not known the law, I would have never considered fighting for the increased rating. The VA was helping me, educating me, and treating my injuries, why would I complain? Sadly, without my legal training and experience, I would have continued struggling without the benefits I had while serving my country. Those thirteen years I went without the additional benefits saved the VA over $150,000. Guess who paid for those savings? My family, especially during those difficult and lean years following my discharge from the military. Who is paying for what they are not giving you?"
Russell T. Doncouse, USAF 1977-1987
At the Law Office of Russell T. Doncouse, we practice Veterans Benefits
law in a manner that is based upon a common-sense approach to legal issues, and as veterans benefits lawyers in Texas, we have a large number of fellow advocates who constantly consult with each other to find solutions. We believe in exhibiting the highest level of integrity while always keeping your best interests at heart.
Please call (210) 829-8900
or e-mail our office
to schedule an initial consultation with an experienced Veterans Benefits lawyer serving the Houston, San Antonio, Waco, Austin & Dallas regions. First consultation is free.