State representatives and some veteran organizations veteran representatives are paid by the state and the veteran organizations respectively. Other veteran organization representatives especially at local post assist veterans with their claims without pay. It is more likely that the state and veteran organizations veteran representatives that work for pay may have some training. It’s less likely that the volunteers have training. It’s important for a veteran to realize that none of these representatives have a financial interest in the outcome of the veteran’s claim. Veteran organizations themselves do have a financial interest because they solicit for donations nationwide as a result of their veteran representative programs as do attorneys and other paid representatives that receive 20 percent of the veteran’s back check for issues on appeal. Many of the veterans’ organizations and state representative programs do receive taxpayer funding in order to financially support the programs. A veteran needs to be aware of the knowledge and skills level including writing of these representatives which could be from anywhere to very good to none at all.
A veteran needs to ask himself a question, “Do I need someone just to assist me with my paperwork and filing a claim, or do I need additional assistance?” In most cases, state and veteran organization veterans’ representatives do not receive funds for sending away for medical records and may have a difficult time with the organization of and the drafting of medical or psychological opinions with the appropriate documentation to support the claim and do not have the funds to pay for these opinions. The VA and the veteran himself may be expected to obtain the supportive medical documentation. A veteran needs to know if his representative is capable of assisting with any needed buddy or continuity of symptoms statements, as well as obtaining a claims file, unit records, and police reports, etc. There may be a big variance between the ability of one representative and another to do the follow up work necessary in order for the claim to be successful.
In addition a veteran needs to find out who is going to assist him from start to finish, and who is also going to assist the veteran with his appeal if he’s not happy with the decision on his claim. Moreover, the veteran needs to know actually who will represent him at any required VA hearing. Historically, the veteran’s representative that the veteran has known and has becomes familiar with the veteran’s claim may not be the same representative that will represent the veteran at a hearing. Furthermore the representative may not even be from the same veterans’ organization or agency. For instance, in some states local representatives that occupy space provided by and at the VA Regional Office are known to just become familiar with the veteran’s file the day of the hearing and may not be from the same organization or agency. A veteran needs to as himself is this alright with him. Sometimes as a result of the outcome of the veteran’s claim, some veterans believe that veterans’ organizations are in bed with the VA, although it is not true. Moreover, many times the VA gets blamed for what is a result of inadequate representation.
There is one Regional office in each state, although there are two Regional offices in larger states that adjudicate veterans’ claims. The state or veteran organization veteran’s representative that is in contact with the veteran may work in cooperation with a representative at the local Regional office, or may send the veteran’s evidence directly to the adjudicators at the Regional office. The veteran needs to find out if the representative he speaks with when he has a question is the same person that will have access to the veteran’s claims file in the future when reviewing the claims file becomes an issue for medical opinions, etc. In addition, the veteran needs to be aware of the attitude and the reputation of the veterans’ organization representative and/or the state veterans’ representative he is dealing with at the time. For decades many of these representatives have been judgmental and sent veterans back home with legitimate claims, missed claims, failed to reopen claims, and file new claims; told veterans to file one claim at a time, don’t appeal you might be reduced, and don’t get the VA mad. These attitude problems may have something to do with the lack of financial interest in the outcome of the veteran’s claim. On the other hand the attitude and the quality of the veteran’s representative may be very good. Good traditional claims representatives may be the best option to represent veterans from start to finish in many cases. Free service to a veteran is always the best choice if the quality is equal. If the quality of representation is not up to par, and the veteran has nowhere else to turn, it is a nightmare for the veteran and on many occasions, has been for decades. Waiting two to three years for an attorney or other paid representative in order to receive a medical or psychiatric opinion or other evidence is not in the best interest of the veteran.
The problem for the veteran is that an attorney cannot get paid for issues that are not on appeal. Veterans’ claims may take several years and have separate claims on each path forcing a veteran to represent himself for some claims or have multiple representatives because of the law. In many cases it would be advantageous to a veteran to find an attorney that is willing to work for free for issues that are not on appeal, in addition to assisting with issues that are on appeal and trying to find an earlier effective date for a claim. These kind of attorneys may be rare and far between. Vets for Full Representation’s purpose is to educate veterans about all of the veteran’s options so the veteran will be able to choose his representative with the knowledge the veteran needs. To learn more about your options as a veteran, visit: www.vets4fullrepresentation.com or call: (304)834-3904 or (855)373-1189.