If you’re interested in working with me on your VA claim, the first step is to fill out my detailed intake form. There you’ll provide information about your service, details about your claim, and upload your rating decisions from VA.
If I’m not taking clients at the time, it may be a little while before I evaluate your claim. Once I do, if it looks like your claim is one I can take and win, I’ll reach out to discuss it in detail. Then, if we come to an agreement, I’ll send you two documents: 1) my fee agreement/contract, which spells out exactly what I’ll do on your behalf, how much I charge, etc, and 2) a VA form 21-22A, which appoints me your representative with VA. Those will be signed with a digital signature. Both documents get filed with VA.
Usually within a couple of weeks, VA then gives me electronic access to your VA c-file and VA medical records. I download those files, and right away review for any appeal deadlines. If there are no immediate deadlines, you then go into the queue to have your claim evaluated.
Usually I maintain a very small client list. That way I can pay detailed attention to your file. From the time I sign you as a client, it can be 12 to 16 weeks before I’ll get started. At that point, I review every single page in your c-file and VA medical records, taking detailed notes. I’ll draft a strategy for appeals and new or increase claims, conduct a detailed interview with you, and then begin work on the actual legal filings. I don’t just fill out the forms and submit them. Every claim goes in with a detailed brief with overview of medical records, details of dates of appointments, scientific research that supports your claim. Sometimes we’ll submit them with nexus letters from medical professionals.
Then we wait. I check every morning for changes to claims, and monitor for exams and other issues. Each step of the way we stay in touch with each other until you get a decision.
What happens when you get a decision?
When you get the decision, we evaluate it to make sure it’s the maximum possible award. You may get a denial, because sometimes VA makes mistakes. If that happens, we identify the best appeal route and continue your claim until you get a win.
What do I charge?
For new conditions you’ve never claimed before, or for new claims for an increase, it is illegal to charge fees. Those are handled for free.
For appeals, which includes Supplemental Claims, Higher Level Reviews and Appeals to the Board of Veterans Appeals, I charge 20% of the back pay that we win. The more you win, the more I charge, which gives me an incentive to get you the biggest possible award. Unless we set up a VA direct pay agreement (where VA withholds the payment from your check and pays me directly), I’ll send you a bill as soon as you get the decision. You’ll then pay me out of the award you received.
Why do I charge money and VSOs don’t?
Generally, most VSOs will simply fill out the forms, attach your medical records, send it off and hope for the best. VSOs are great resources. However, they usually have a HUGE client base, are overworked, overwhelmed, and don’t have the time to spend the detailed case analysis that claims agents and attorneys do. I usually recommend that you work with a VSO for your initial claim. They can guide you, make recommendations, and help prepare you to win. If you have a complicated appeal which turns on detailed evidence or VA’s misinterpretation of the law, that’s when you need an Accredited Claims Agent or Attorney.
What about claims “consultants?”
There are a lot of claims “consultants” out there — or what the veterans organizations call Claim Sharks. These are companies that are not accredited, don’t have access to VA records, and are breaking the law. They work on volume, usually filing claims for increase or new claims, then charging anywhere from 5 to 10 times your monthly increase (which, by the way, is illegal). A lot of them will put together fraudulent claims — DBQs that don’t reflect your actual symptoms, and nexus letters put together by the equivalent of a chop shop for cars. You end up doing all the work, and they will routinely call the VA and impersonate you to find out if you got an increase. Even if you stop working with them and terminate your relationship, when they learn you got an increase they’ll hit you with a big bill.
Bear in mind, that they probably can’t enforce an illegal contract. If you worked with a claims consultant and you are getting harassed for payment when they didn’t do anything to help you, contact your state Attorney General.