A serious question to ask yourself when filing a VA disability claim or appeal is…Do I need an attorney to help me with my VA disability claim? I struggled with the same question. Would I be better off as a veteran representing myself? Maybe I should use a Veterans’ Service Officer (VSO) to help me. Let’s jump into the pros and cons of each of these options.
Using an Attorney for VA Disability Claims:
Pros: The first and obvious advantage for a veteran using an attorney when filing a VA Disability Claim is that the veteran doesn’t have to file the claim themselves. It takes a big burden off of a veterans’ shoulders having an attorney filing the VA Disability Claim for them. Another advantage of using an attorney for VA Disability Claims is that an attorney is very knowledgeable with Veteran Disability Laws. This way the VA Claim process flows properly, and nothing is missed. If an attorney doesn’t win the VA claim for you and get you a backpay check then you don’t owe them any money at all.
Cons: I used an attorney for a VA Disability Claim one time and once the claim was complete, I had to pay a fee of 20% of what the backpay check was. I also found that with an attorney I was not getting very detailed information on the status of my VA claim throughout the process.
Using a Veterans’ Service Officer (VSO):
Pros: An obvious advantage of using a VSO when filing a VA Disability Claim is that the veteran doesn’t have to file the claim themselves. Another big advantage is that most VSO organizations are very knowledgeable in veteran disability laws. Unlike using an attorney using a VSO for veterans’ disability claims is free. When the veteran is granted, a disability using a VSO the veteran will not have to pay the VSO any money.
Cons: I have used a VSO myself several times for different VA disability claims. The main disadvantage I thought was the fact that it was hit and miss on the level of help I received. The VSO’s workload was so large that I didn’t receive very good help with my VA disability claim. I only heard from my VSO once before my appeal hearing. I was worried they didn’t do enough research to properly represent me.
Filing the VA Disability Claim Yourself:
Pros: I have also filed VA disability claims myself. A veteran is their own best advocate. I researched and taught myself the forms to use, the processes involved, and the laws associated with VA disability claims and appeals. I put more effort and care into the VA claim than what my former attorney and VSO did combined. An attorney and VSO are going to put for a minimal effort on a veteran’s disability claim usually due to workload.
Cons: If a veteran chooses to file a VA disability claim or appeal on their own, they need to educate themselves very well. With a VA disability claim there are certain forms that need to completed. Those forms have deadlines. There are certain processes and procedures that can be very confusing. So, if you go this route pleas make sure you educate yourself fully on the VA Disability and Appeals process.
In closing I don’t recommend one of the above options over the other. I believe that a veteran is their own best advocate and should make a decision on which option based what they feel works best for them.
Absolutely, a veteran is his best advocate. However you have to research, research and read through a lot of material but its all available on the internet.
I worked a year on my claim for exposure to toxic jet engine exhaust and exposure to Agent Orange.
It did pay off. I received notice that I was granted 100% T&P for AO. My decision only took 76 days to be granted.
A friend that I lost track off for 50 years ago was found last year. He had worked with an attorney for exposure for mixing AO . The problem was he had no documents. I was able to get him all the document he needed and help him write his letter. His attorney didn’t really look for documents. They were just wait for a miracle. His attorney said there was no way to speed up the process. So, I wrote a letter for my friends to the VA in Ohio. I don’t know if it was my letter but two week later his attorney call and said things were moving along. My friend received a decision for AO exposure and was 100% disabled. His claim was 8 years old but he received back pay for all 8 years.
I hope this help a veteran!
J L Thomas