The Mayer Law Blog

The VA Claim Conundrum

Posted December 26th, 2013 in Military Advocacy

VA claim appeals cases are an interesting subject among those of us who dedicate all or most of our practice to being a military lawyer. Most, like me, avoid these cases. In our estimation, not-for-profit advocacy groups and volunteers seem to be effective and successful. Additionally, finding a VA appeal that is worthwhile and not just an exercise in futility can be exceedingly problematic. Finally, while I know the potential good that can be done by helping with VA claims appeals, it just isn’t an area of the law that interests me. I’d rather focus on the areas of practice in which I’m already competent.

Unfortunately, I get a lot of calls from individuals who feel slighted or cheated by the attorney who handled their VA claim appeal. All of these lawyers have been accredited by the VA, though I’ve never heard of one who has dedicated his career to being a military lawyer. While I know their efforts for their clients fell short, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they were incompetent or bad lawyers. I always wonder where, in the middle, the truth lies.

Via the New York Times, it appears that certain problems are becoming somewhat epidemic.

As baby boomers head toward retirement — worrying not only about their financial futures, but also their parents’ — a cottage industry has sprung up around the pension program.

Lawyers, financial advisers and insurance brokers have formed a lucrative alliance with retirement communities and assisted living facilities to extract many billions of taxpayer dollars from the V.A., according to interviews with state and federal authorities, as well as a review by The New York Times of hundreds of legal documents and client contracts.

Questionable actors are capitalizing on loose oversight to unlock the V.A. money and enrich themselves, sometimes at veterans’ expense. The V.A. accreditation process is so lax that applicants provide their own background information, including any criminal records. But the V.A. has only four full-time employees evaluating the approximately 5,000 applications that it receives annually. Once people get the V.A.’s stamp of approval, they rarely lose it, even if a customer complains or regulatory actions mount. Last year, the V.A. revoked its accreditation for two of its more than 20,000 advisers.

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