Making a Veterans Claim
Congress designed the veterans’ claim process to be veterans’
friendly. As President Lincoln said the purpose of the DVA is "to
care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his
orphan.” There is no time limit on when a claim can be brought.
Congress recognized that, sometimes, an event that occurred in service
may take many years to cause a disability. In these cases, the veteran
is entitled to bring a claim no matter how long it has been since he got
out of the service.
Just as important, a veteran has the right to reopen a claim that has
already been denied by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. In order
to get another chance at proving his claim, all the veteran needs to do
is produce new and material evidence showing that his claim should be
When to use a lawyer
Under the new law in 2007 allowing veteran’s to hire lawyers for representation, the veteran cannot enter into a fee contract with a
lawyer until the Regional Office has denied a claim for the first time.
This means that, generally, the veterans should file the claim
initially by themselves or with a veteran service officer. The VA is
required by law to assist the veteran in proving the claim and, if the
claim is granted, the veteran should never have to hire a lawyer.
Our experience is that initial claims are not always granted.
Furthermore, even when an initial claim is granted there are other
issues worth having an attorney review– like effective date and rating.
The workload of the Regional Offices is so great that they just do not
have the time or resources to carefully consider all aspects of the
claims that get filed.
We tell our clients that they should contact a lawyer about their
case as soon as they get the first Rating Decision on their claim. Once
the Regional Office issues the Rating Decision, the veteran can
contract with a lawyer. Do not delay! Once you get a rating decision,
contact our office right away.
Selecting a lawyer
Veteran’s law is different from any other type of state or
federal administrative law. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs only
allows those lawyers who have successfully applied for accreditation to
represent veterans in the Agency.
Here is a checklist that you should use in interviewing a lawyer for your veteran’s claim:
1. How long has the attorney been practicing veteran’s law?
The Court of Appeals for Veteran’s Claims was founded in 1988.
Private Attorneys were granted a much broader right to practice in the
Agency– before the Regional Office and the Board of Veterans’ Appeals–
in 2007. You should look for a law firm that has lawyers who practice
both in the Agency and before the Court.
2. Is the attorney admitted to practice before the Court of Appeals for Veteran’s Claims.
The CAVC is the court that considers appeals from the Department of
Veteran’s Affairs. Work before this court is a major part of the work
of a veteran’s attorney. Your attorney should have this qualification.
3. Is the attorney accredited by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs?
In 2007, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs began accrediting
attorneys to work before the Regional Offices and the Board of Veteran’s
Appeals. An attorney cannot represent you in the Department of
Veteran’s Affairs without this qualification.