Military Law

Representation in Appeals of VA Benefits Rulings

Was your recent Veteran's Affairs (VA) disability compensation award simply not enough? Have you been denied VA education, pensions or health care benefits? The VA appeals process gives you the right to challenge the decision on your claim. Veterans and other claimants for VA benefits have the right to appeal VA rulings. It can seem that filing an appeal is part of the claims process.

Recently enacted laws impact rules on legal representation in VA appeals. The laws try to make sure claimants get the help they need for an appeal. Be familiar with the appeals process and rules on representation if you're thinking about an appeal.

The Appeals Process

You have one year from the date the VA notifies you of its decision to file your appeal. You may appeal a complete or partial denial of your claim or the benefit amount granted. The appeals process starts by filing a Notice of Disagreement with your local VA office. However, it's a good idea to start by consulting with an attorney or agent qualified to represent claimants for veteran's benefits.

Attorney and Agent Representation

The Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006 changed the rules on appeals of VA rulings to allow for paid representation of claimants by accredited agents and attorneys. A claimant can have a paid representative after a notice of disagreement is filed. The Act ensures that representatives of claimants are of good moral character, in good standing and are qualified to render valuable service.

An attorney or agent representing claimants on appeals is allowed to charge a reasonable fee. This means the fee doesn't exceed 20 percent of the past due benefits awarded on a claim. The agent or attorney must disclose the fee agreement to the Secretary of Veterans' Affairs. If a fee is found excessive or unreasonable, the Secretary may order a reduction. Contingency fee agreements with fees paid from the past-due benefits awards are allowed.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Can't I appeal my VA ruling on my own?
  • Are extensions on the time limit for filing appeals allowed? How can I get an extension?
  • How much experience do you have in handling appeals?
  • How long does an appeal take, and how are claims paid if I win?
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