The VA Disability Initiative is committed to supporting veterans by protecting their right to choose how they prepare to receive the disability benefits they rightly deserve. Our veterans have earned the right to choose their consultation and representation, regardless of accreditation status, as they navigate a flawed and confusing system.
Veterans have fought tirelessly to protect us, now it’s our turn to protect their rights.
The veterans benefits program is our obligation to the brave men and women who have served this country. Unfortunately, the current system is both underfunded and confusing, leaving veterans at a disadvantage when seeking the benefits they are ethically, medically and legally entitled to.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is one of the largest and most complex agencies in the U.S. government. The last two decades of war have produced the greatest number of veterans since the Vietnam War, and the system’s cracks are starting to show as backlogs get longer and backwards incentive programs emerge.
While good intentioned, volunteer organizations who support the VA disabilities benefits program cannot do it all. Veterans need help and we need a change. Current law allows for veterans to seek fee-based consultation on their benefit claims if they choose. However, some in Congress have proposed legislation that would deny a veteran that right to choose by putting such companies out of business.
Any legislation around this issue must ensure a veteran’s right to choose is not jeopardized.
Veterans have multiple options when it comes to how they decide to process a claim, including:
Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs)
These are groups of well-meaning volunteers that handle everything from medical transport to home loan assistance, death certificates and funeral services, benefits support, and more.
Private Consulting Agents
These are private companies with years of experience filing claims, that work on a contingency basis, and like VSOs can help veterans start their benefits claims and assist each step of the process.
Typically, they do not get paid unless there is a benefit increase for the veteran. As such, their claims are usually resolved in 2-5 months.
Legal Representation and Accredited Individuals
These are lawyers that have been recognized by the VA as accredited agents.
They help a veteran with their initial claim with no-charge. However, they work exclusively on a fee-based model when/if the initial claim is denied, collecting solely back-pay as compensation for services rendered on the appeal. They are accredited through a simple background check and paid by the VA regardless of how the claim lands, but are incentivized to drag out their appeal to maximize profits.
Veterans can choose to go through the process themselves, but the complicated system and lack of resources available leave the veteran at a disadvantage in achieving the best possible outcome.
Last year, the Senate proposed changes to the system that would inflict civil and criminal penalties on anyone that is not an accredited entity by the VA, leaving the initial phase of the claims solely on the backs of the VSOs or veterans themselves. This initial effort failed, but others in Congress are taking up the mantle and the Biden administration has astonishingly given it new life in their latest VA budget request.
Current proposed legislation further limits a veteran’s choice by essentially creating a monopoly for accredited lawyers, who are incentivized to drag out appeals for greater personal payout. Veterans should not be forced to choose from one well-intentioned, but struggling, option or one that is incentivized to string them along.
Reforming the accreditation system to expand access, and thus choice, is a commonsense solution that Congress must consider.
America was built on the foundation of choice. That means allowing individuals to choose whether they want to use public or private services. We must protect this foundational principle for our veterans.
To learn more about the VA Disability Initiative, fill out the form below.