Selecting a Veterans Lawyer to Fight for your Claim
The decision to hire an attorney to represent you for your VA disability compensation claim is an extremely important one. If you are going to pay an advocate then that advocate must be able to do more for your claim that the free representation that you can get from a veteran service officer. The attorney must prove to you that he brings value added to your claim. Once you sign a contract with an attorney you cannot get out of it.
Here is a checklist that you should use in researching and interviewing a lawyer for your veteran’s claim:
- Does the attorney have something more to show than just VA accreditation? Any attorney who holds himself out as a veteran’s attorney has to be ‘accredited’ by the VA. Please understand to gain ‘accreditation’ means that the attorney 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. Further, most VSOs have more rigorous training than this; VSOs do not charge for representation. If the attorney 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 attorney has that means that the attorney will be using your case to get training. His errors could undermine your case. Your case is too important for that. You want an attorney 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 someone who is involved in the advocate community teaching others and writing papers or books on how to represent veterans.
- Does the attorney focus on VA claims? This area of 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 attorneys 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 attorney. Your VA claim is important to you. It is personal. Hiring an attorney is a big decision. Insist on speaking with the attorney before signing the contract. You need to see what they can do to help you with your claim. An attorney should have time before you sign 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 attorney make sure that you are going to get your money’s worth. Importantly, once you sign a contract with an attorney that contract irrevocable. If you fire that attorney then the attorney can still demand his fee from your retro benefits. This right would deter any other attorney from representing you. Bottom line: if the attorney doesn’t have time to speak with you before you agree to hire him do not hire him.