What is VA Accreditation
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a keen interest in making sure Veterans are receiving competent and ethical representation. Because of this, any person who assists a Veteran in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution for VA benefits is required to obtain an accreditation by the VA. Three types of individuals can be accredited for this purpose: independent claims agents, representatives of VA-recognized Veterans service organizations, and attorneys. A federal employee cannot become VA accredited.
A Veteran might qualify for many VA benefits: education, vocational rehabilitation and employment, compensation, pension, healthcare, home loans, and burial benefits. A VA accredited attorney could provide competent advice and assistance with these types of claims.
How to become accredited
To become a VA accredited individual, one must:
- Complete an application - VA Form 21a.
- Gather any necessary supporting documentation (certificate of good standing from the state bar, documentation regarding substance abuse issues, documentation regarding physical limitations which would interfere with the ability to complete a written exam, etc.)
- Submit your application to the Office of General Counsel in Washington, D.C.
- Undergo a character and fitness evaluation.
- Receive your accreditation! Attorney applications usually take between 60 – 120 days for approval.
- Once approved for VA accreditation, one must complete a continuing legal education requirement. ElderCounsel is offering a VA Accreditation Webinar on August 15th. This webinar satisfies the initial and continuing VA CLE requirement for VA accreditation in all 50 states. Attorneys accredited by the VA must take three hours of CLE within their first year of accreditation, and an additional three hours every two years thereafter.
ElderCounsel has a recorded course "How to Prepare a Complete VA Pension Application" webinar and a Veterans Pension Planning Immersion Camp September 24-25. These would be great resources for attorneys who want to expand their practice to include VA accreditation representation.
What types of attorneys seek VA accreditation
The type of work done with a VA accreditation can be akin to elder law. Most elder law attorneys already help seniors apply for and obtain Medicaid benefits, which is a similar process to applying for and obtaining Veterans pension benefits. Many elder law attorneys find it is an easy transition to add VA benefits planning to their practice. Not only do those attorneys enjoy an increase in services offered, they often find they are offering a more complete set of skills to their clientele.
Estate planning attorneys also find that adding VA benefits representation to their firm’s services is a comfortable and easy transition. Estate planning attorneys are planning for the disposition of their client’s assets at death and helping them protect and grow those assets along the way. Being able to analyze and understand how VA benefits work would enable an estate planner to better plan for their client. Then, the estate planning attorney could offer the additional service of helping that Veteran apply for and obtain benefits. Win, win!
Veterans are an esteemed and honored class of people. They deserve skilled and principled representation and the VA assures that this is given through VA accreditation. Obtaining this prestigious VA accreditation can set an attorney apart from their competition, gain new business for the firm, allow one to offer a more complete set of services, and help Veterans in the process! There are over 20 million Veterans in the United States – be ready to help them by becoming a VA accredited attorney.