Can Veterans Be Charged to File VA Claims?
Kayla D’Onofrio: Welcome to CCK Live Under 5:00. I’m Kayla D’Onofrio. And in this video, I’m going to be answering the question: can you be charged to file a VA claim?
In general, no representative or organization may charge a veteran for assistance filing initial claims, nor may they take any portion of future VA monthly benefits. So what that means is that, if you are filing your first claim for a particular condition or an issue, in general, your representative would not be entitled to a fee on it and they also would not be able to take any fees on any of your future monthly VA payments.
If you have a representative who assists you in getting an award from VA, they can charge fees based on retroactive benefits. So, what that basically means is that when you are granted a benefit by VA, they assign a particular effective date, and depending on that effective date you may be entitled to a sort of a lump sum retroactive payment and your attorney or your accredited representative would be able to charge a fee based on that retroactive payment, according to a certain percentage as agreed upon by the veteran, or the claimant and the representative.
It is illegal for attorneys or representatives to charge fees based on future benefits. There are also ethical rules of reasonableness to which VA disability lawyers are held by VA. Accredited lawyers and agents are typically working on contingency agreements. So again, meaning that they’re only taking from the past-due benefits that you’re awarded. They would be taking a fee on just those past-due benefits, just a portion of it.
VA regulations assert that fees that are 20% or less are presumed to be reasonable. And in 20% or less fee agreements, VA will automatically withhold your fee from your retroactive award in order to pay your accredited representative in most circumstances.
However, attorneys and accredited representatives can charge a fee of up to 33.3% of retroactive benefits and it’s still presumed to be reasonable up to that point. Anything above 33.3% is presumed unreasonable.
Another thing to keep in mind is if you have an agreement that is above 20% but below 33.3%, VA will not automatically withhold their attorneys’ fee in the same way that they would with a 20% or less fee agreement. So, just be aware of what kind of agreement you might have in place with your attorney or your accredited representatives so you understand sort of how that payment process would work when the time comes.
To legally represent veterans and VA disability benefits cases, individuals must be accredited by VA. This means that accredited representatives are recognized by VA as being legally authorized and capable of assisting claimants in the pursuit of benefits before the Department of Veterans Affairs.
There are a number of sort of different testing, background testing, and subject matter testing that you would have to go through to become accredited through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
So, when choosing a representative, be aware of anyone who’s not accredited and if you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to ask if it’s not made clear to you when you’re going through the process of hiring a new representative.
Again, most accredited representatives charge a contingency fee based on retroactive benefits recovered. If a person is charging a percentage of benefits the claimant is going to receive over a certain period of time or through your VA monthly benefits, they are charging fees unethically and illegally.
For more information on accreditation, hiring the right representative, and the VA claims process in general, you can check out our website or check out our other videos through our website and YouTube and Facebook channels. But otherwise thank you so much for watching today and don’t forget to subscribe to our channel and follow us on social.
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