Selecting a Veterans Lawyer to Fight for your Claim
The decision to hire a VA claims lawyer to represent you for your VA disability compensation claim is an extremely important one. If you are going to pay a VA disability lawyer then that lawyer must be able to do more for your claim than the free representation that you can get from a veteran service officer. The VA claims lawyer must prove to you that they bring value added to your claim. Once you sign a contract with a VA disability lawyer you cannot easily get out of it.
Here is a checklist that you should use in researching and interviewing a VA disability lawyer for your claim:
- Does the lawyer have something more to show than just VA accreditation? Any lawyer who holds himself out as a VA claim lawyer has to be ‘accredited’ by the VA. Please understand to ‘gain accreditation’ means that the lawyer only had to watch a three-hour video. VA has thousands of regulations and rules. Three hours is not enough to even do an overview of these laws. Further, most VSOs have more rigorous training than this; VSOs do not charge for representation. If the lawyer holds out being ‘accredited’ as the only experience that he has in VA law that is a red flag. If this is all the experience and training the lawyer has that means that the lawyer will be using your case to get training. His errors could undermine your case. Your case is too important for that. You want a VA claims lawyer that has practiced in this area for, at least, several years. You want to see a resume that shows expertise in the field. You want to see a VA claims lawyer who is involved in the advocate community teaching others and writing papers or books on how to represent veterans.
- Does the lawyer focus on VA claims? VA disability law is complicated and requires constant training and studying of the law as it changes. If you see a law firm that shows it does five different areas of law this is a red flag. If you see the firm doing many areas of law then you want to look and see if there are VA disability lawyers in the firm that only practice VA law. If not, you are trusting your case to someone who does not specialize in this area. VA law is too complicated to practice on a part-time basis.
- Do not sign a contract before you speak with the lawyer. Your VA claim is important to you. It is personal. Hiring a VA claims lawyer is a big decision. Insist on speaking with the lawyer before signing the contract. You need to see what they can do to help you with your claim. A VA disability lawyer should have time before you sign a binding contract to tell you how he can help you with your claim. You are most likely to enter into a multi-year relationship with this person. You are entitled to interview him before signing anything. Remember, you are agreeing to pay this VA disability lawyer, make sure that you are going to get your money’s worth. Importantly, once you sign a contract with a lawyer that contract is irrevocable. If you fire that lawyer then the lawyer can still demand his fee from your retro benefits. This right would deter any other VA claims lawyers from representing you. Bottom line: if the lawyer doesn’t have time to speak with you before you agree to hire him do not hire him.
- What is the plan to win your benefits? An experienced VA disability lawyer will tell you about his plan to win your benefits. Now this plan will most likely be general in nature because, as any good VA claims lawyer knows, there is a lot of information to gather before a definitive plan is in place. This detailed plan would involve getting medical records, service records and previous decisions, all of which is found in a veteran’s C file. For a review of your latest decision, coupled with a detailed talk with you should allow the VA claim lawyer to understand what evidence might be missing and, at least, a goal for the benefits you should be getting.
- Has this VA disability lawyer handled a claim like yours before? Every claim is different and unique to that veteran. However, there are broad areas of claims—mental health, TBI, orthopedic, exposure cases—that experienced VA claims lawyers deal with. Make sure to ask if the VA disability lawyer has handled a case similar to yours before.
- Finally, ask the VA disability lawyer about their record of success. You want a lawyer that has an excellent record. At Hill & Ponton, if we determine that we can win a case then we are successful over 90% of the time. Granted, there are times when we get a case and we just don’t have the facts to prove it but any experienced VA claims lawyer should have a very high success record.