As of June 2007, disabled veterans are now able to hire an attorney immediately after filing a Notice of Disagreement at the VA regional office (VARO). Typically, an NOD (Notice of Disagreement) is filed after an RD (Rating Decision) is issued by the VA. Prior to this date, veterans could not hire attorneys to assist with their legal representation until the later phases of their appeals process, which can take years to complete. Hiring an attorney early in the VA appeal process allows the veteran a better opportunity to present a well developed claim-file supporting the veteran’s case. But, many veterans would rather, at least at first, represent themselves in their ensuing battle with the VA to get their rightful benefits. Before any veteran self represents, he/she should decide whether it is worth his/her while to “go it alone”, or opt for legal representation. In most cases, because of the time it takes a self-represented veteran to get a favorable decision from the VA, as opposed to having a competent attorney prepare arguments, most will opt for an attorney. The reason being, the VA does make it a tough, and sometimes grueling process, and often times, veterans lose hope that any kind of decision will ever be made towards their claim(s). The key is to not get ambushed navigating through the claims process, and the veteran must understand that the VA can deny a claim for any number of reasons.
The average service organization representative has over 1,000 claims. An attorney, on the other hand, will only take the number of veterans claims the law firm can provide competent and expert legal assistance to at any particular time. Next, attorneys do not rely on the VA to develop the evidence to support the claim. A competent law firm representing veterans in their disability claims uses medical professionals to ensure each and every claim by the veteran meets the standard of proof required by the BVA (Board of Veterans Appeals) and the CAVC , (Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims). The goal is to prove the claim at the lowest level possible for the veteran, but at the same time prepare for any judicial proceedings.
The bottom line when deciding whether to hire an attorney or not in obtaining rightful disability benefits is this: the key to any successful disability claim is proper representation. There are so many steps to take in the claims process, and, as in anything, the path a veteran takes to get from step to step is filled with traps and pitfalls for the inexperienced. It is essential that a veteran has appropriate legal representation by an expert attorney, one who will certainly ensure the most beneficial outcome of his/her claims, and will walk hand in hand with the veteran through the landmines that are the VA’s appeals process.