Paid or Free Representation?
You get what you paid for. Right? The idea is the cheaper something is, the worse quality. And free? When’s the last time you got something for free that was actually quality?
However, there are times when free may be better than paid. Filing claims with the VA fits into that category most of the time.
Case in point –
I saw a post on Facebook last week from a Veteran. He claims that he filed a VA Disability claim for himself and was denied. He had a lot of trouble getting it approved. Because of this, he set up a ‘business’ to help veterans file their disability claims. I sent this Veteran a message to ask if he is accredited, with who, and also how much he charge. The individual said he has no accreditation and charges $500 to assist with filing a claim. He charges $1000 to assist with filing an appeal. Notice that he can only assist in filing and provide general advice. He is not a representative and cannot deal with the VA on your behalf.
The Need for Accreditation
Here’s the deal. In order to represent a Veteran with the VA, you must be accredited. This includes going through training in the legalities surrounding the claims process. It is not difficult to fill out the proper forms. The knowledge surrounding it, however, is encompassed in a 2000+ page manual. When the VFW or American Legion (or several others) give an individual accreditation, they say this person has the knowledge to represent claimants. The organization then stands behind this accreditation to represent the claimant to the VA.
Finding a VSO
So how do you go about finding accredited Veteran Service Officers? One way is to go to your state Department of Veterans Affairs. In Arkansas, the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA) maintains a database, accessible online, listing the accredited agents in each county. And, the service is FREE. The various counties pay the VSOs to serve Veterans and help them file paperwork with the VA.
Veterans decide who will represent them and help file their claims to the VA. However, each Veteran also needs to know the facts of who is representing them and what their credentials are.