A Civil War-era statute had effectively barred veterans from hiring lawyers by limiting their fees for certain work to $10; perhaps a good thing then -- not a good thing now. Under the old law, veterans could seek the assistance of an attorney only after they received an adverse ruling from the Board of Veterans' Appeals. Under a new law, "Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006," veterans may now seek out an attorney after their claim is rejected by a regional office. However, this "shell-game" is not yet over, due to the machinations of a select few.
First A Very Brief Overview of Our Claims Process
- Veterans' claims are judged first at a regional VA office, including a disagreement-process.
- If denied there, the veteran can appeal to the Board of Veterans' Appeals.
- If denied again, they can appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans' Claims.
The new law allows a veteran to keep using unpaid advocates from veterans' groups if they want. There is absolutely no requirement to hire an attorney. Rather, the veteran now has the option to hire an attorney after the "first level" of claim rejection; the first regional office denial.
So, What's The Problem
Even though the "Attorneys for Veterans" legislation passed, there was a last-minute back-room deal in the Senate that has the potential of derailing the legislation before the first attorney assists their first Veteran.
A Senator, who does not want veterans to allow attorneys to represent Veterans, put a hold on the "Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006" in the 109th Congress. To get that hold lifted and the full bill passed, a deal was made to repeal the "Attorneys for Veterans" provision in the 110th Congress. And, to ensure that that would happen, the "repealing" legislation was written in the 109th Congress and is currently in a holding pattern as a "draft" bill.
The sneaky part of this "draft" bill is that it just returns the law to its original form. "Whoever" is trying to prevent veterans from being able to use attorneys in the VA claims process will, most likely, insert the "repealing" legislation as an amendment to another bill. That way it will, most likely, get lost in the shuffle and be passed without notice.
This is politics at its worst! All Veterans will lose! The worst part, it was general knowledge in the Senate that this was being done.
We all must watch to see who tries to get this "repealing" legislation passed. And then this action must... be... stopped.
So, What Can One Do
We need to make our voices heard on Capitol Hill. Let your elected representatives know that you want veterans to have their choice of representation.
To contact your Representative go to "Write Your Representative" (
), fill in your state and zip code, and follow the instructions.
To contact our Senators, fill out the Web Forms for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (
) and Senator Charles E. Schumer (
And if you should send this to someone not in New York, to contact their Senators they should go to "Senators of the 110th Congress" (
), select their state, and fill in the "Web Form" for both of their Senators.
--- Regards, Walt Schmidt