A Veterans Administration policy is adversely affecting veterans because it does not allow them to choose their own representation in VA matters from start to finish. That policy needs to change.
I am an attorney who helps veterans. I enlisted at the age of 19 and served in the Marines in the Vietnam War. I was blinded in combat and received a Purple Heart. Since I finished my education and law school, I have passionately helped disabled veterans get the VA benefits they earned.
As a legal advocate for disabled veterans, I am dismayed by the staggering statistics: of the 1.6 million returning veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, nearly one-half of them have at least one war-related injury.
The sad thing about these numbers is these veterans and others don't receive VA benefits because they either don't apply or they get frustrated by the complex claims process and quit pursuing their claims before completion of their appeals.
Unfortunately for attorneys, there is not a level playing field. Attorneys like me are specifically precluded from accepting donations or up-front fees for helping veterans before any claim is on appeal.
In 2007 the VA changed its regulations so attorneys can only receive compensation for claims on appeal.
It followed with regulations barring donations prior to an appeal. What this means is an attorney like me ends up working for free in order to possibly be paid later for claims that are not on appeal.
Under current law an attorney receives 20 percent from the veteran's retroactive reward when there is a favorable decision only for claims that are on appeal when the attorney represents the veteran for those claims.
This process discourages more attorneys from participating in VA disability claims and frankly, some attorneys choose to only work on appealed issues because it's less expensive for them under the current law.
The veteran is the one that is hurt more than the attorney because he may end up being thrown under the bus for issues that aren't on appeal because of the law.