Help with Your Appeal
There are many sources of assistance available to veterans who wish to file an appeal. Although some veterans choose to handle their appeals themselves, veterans who have an advocate that is familiar with the appeals process may be more likely to succeed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The earlier you have the assistance of a professional advocate, the more likely you are to get your benefits.
The AGO does not recommend one type of assistance over another. Each individual veteran should decide which type of advocate can be most effective in his or her case. The following types of assistance are available.
- Your local veterans’ service officer or the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services can provide you with a variety of levels of assistance filing and appealing a VA claim.
- There are many private attorneys who are trained in helping veterans with the appeal process and are willing to volunteer their services through their local bar association or other pro bono programs. Low-income veterans may also be eligible for free legal services from the many legal aid organizations in the Commonwealth.
- There are a number of trained representatives available through various veterans’ service organizations such as the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, AMVETS, Gold Star Wives, and numerous other dedicated organizations. Many of these organizations are congressionally chartered, which means they are approved by the VA Secretary to provide veterans with assistance. The VA provides a directory of all veterans’ service organizations where you can find this type of assistance online at: www.va.gov/vso.
Some veterans may choose to hire a private attorney to help them, even though there are many volunteer lawyers willing to help with VA benefits claims. Veterans who make this choice should be aware of what fees an attorney may and may not charge for these services. Attorneys may charge a reasonable fee to represent veterans for assisting veterans before they file a VA claim, or for assistance with an appeal after the veteran has filed a Notice of Disagreement. The lawyer must provide the veteran with a written fee agreement and the agreement should specify if the VA should pay the fees to the lawyer directly out of past due benefits if the veteran is successful on appeal. The fee also must be reasonable for the amount of skill required and type of work performed. Under 38 U.S.C. § 5904, if the lawyer is being paid from any past due benefits awarded to the veteran, the lawyer may not receive more than 20 percent of the past due benefit award. The lawyer may not receive a share of the veteran’s future benefits.