The number of sad stories of veterans’ benefits getting tied up in the system is not only sad but startling. A quick internet search can lead to story after story of veterans who have struggled to receive the benefits that are owed to them.
Robert DiCicco spent his final years battling through the red tape to get his benefits and pay for the bills to his assisted living facility. The sad part is he didn’t live to see it. The benefits he was owed did come through ten days after his death, but they were taken back by the Veteran’s Administration. The DiCicco family had to begin again as his wife was left to fight for the benefits as his beneficiary. The unfortunate part is that these stories are far too common. In fact, many veterans die or give up before they ever receive benefits. Knowing how and finding a professional advocate is a veteran’s best option.
1. Success rates are boosted with a professional advocate.
The National Organization of Veteran’s Advocates, Inc. (NOVA) reports that veterans represented by attorneys have the lowest denial rate in front of the Board of Veteran’s Appeals (BVA). NOVA also notes that veterans with attorney representation are more likely to have their appeals allowed by the BVA. Another great benefit to having an attorney is the Equal Access to Justice Act. This act says that if the attorney wins the appeal, then the government must pay the veteran’s legal fees. Therefore, the attorney gets paid without affecting the veteran’s benefits.
2. Qualified attorneys know their way around the process.
Attorneys who specialize in veteran’s benefits cases understand the process. These attorneys know what paperwork needs to be filed and when. They can also walk the veteran through the process. Attorneys can read and understand the case files and records which can help the veteran maximize their benefits and even find benefits the veteran may not be aware of. After assessing case files, the attorney can determine the most efficient path to take to achieve these goals. In a system where many veterans are waiting years for benefits, there is a huge benefit to using an attorney. This could help speed up the process.
3. Having a professional advocate provides personalized help.
A veteran with an attorney advocating for their case has personalized help. Case managers and people within the system cannot provide this kind of assistance to their clients as they are dealing with a multitude of cases. Attorneys and firms generally only take on the number of cases they have time to give attention to, allowing them to fight on your behalf. In addition, an attorney is able to answer claims related questions the veteran may have in a timely manner. Without an attorney, the only way the veteran can get answers is by calling the VA and often waiting long periods of time for answers. An experienced attorney can also help the client to know what records are needed to support claims and to provide sworn statements when necessary. You can be assured that if the BVA is hearing an appeal, they have an attorney. Therefore, it stands to reason that the veteran would want to even out the playing field by having an attorney as well.
When it comes to something as important as veteran’s benefits, it only makes sense that a veteran is better off with someone who knows the ins and outs of the process. It is the job of the attorney to advocate for their client, but they also provide support and information which is invaluable. If you don’t want to end up like Robert DiCicco and countless others like him, consider getting an attorney as soon as possible to help with your claim.
When deciding to who to choose to help you with your personal case, make sure you choose a VA Accredited professional who has been approved by the VA to work with veterans. There are a number of professionals that advertise helping veterans but are not accredited with the VA. You can learn more on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.
*By law, an individual must be accredited by VA as an agent, attorney, or representative of a VA-recognized veterans service organization to assist in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of a claim for VA benefits. 38 U.S.C. §§ 5901-5902, 5904; 38 C.F.R. § 14.629. VA regulations provide a one-time only exception to this general rule, which authorizes a person to provide assistance on a particular claim, but such assistance must be without cost to the claimant and is otherwise subject to the laws governing representation. 38 C.F.R. § 14.630. An individual who is not accredited by VA is otherwise prohibited by law from assisting claimants in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims before VA.
(*Reference VA-Office of General Counsel)
If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information on Veterans Benefits or Veterans Claims Appeals, please feel free to contact us at (615) 989-7054.
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Heritage Law Group, PLLC is a boutique Estate Planning and Elder Law firm assisting residents in Tennessee and Kentucky. We are dedicated to providing client-centered, professional legal services that are individualized through one-on-one consultations. We delight in empowering our clients and community through education and providing specialized resources. Our integrity-driven team will help you protect your legacy while delivering outstanding quality at a reasonable cost.
Owner, Jake Mason, J.D., LL.M. (Elder Law & Estate Planning), EPLS, is board-certified in Estate Planning and Probate, accredited by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and licensed in Kentucky and Tennessee. Contact us to schedule a consultation at (615) 989-7054 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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