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The most common type of fee is the percentage or contingency fee,
which is the most favorable fee structure for most veterans in most
veterans benefits cases. This is because the attorney is only paid if
(1) an award is made and (2) there is an amount owed to the veteran
at the time of the award. The attorney is then paid a percentage (usually
between 20% and 33%) of the amount owed to the veteran when an
award is approved. This amount, also known as a “retroactive” award,
is the amount of due to the veteran from the effective date of the award
up to the date of the award. If the award was made following an appeal to
the Board and the effective date is the date the claim was originally filed
(as it is in most cases), the retroactive amount could be 3 or 4 years of
benefits. If the case goes up to the Veterans Court and back, the
retroactive period could be ten years or more.
As an example, assume a veteran filed a claim on January 1, 2004,
and enters into a 20% contingency fee agreement with an attorney.
On January 1, 2008, the veteran is awarded a 100% disability rating.
The retroactive amount is the 100% monthly payment for the period
between January 1, 2004, and January 1, 2008 (four years), which is
approximately $120,000 at current rates.
The attorney’s fee would be 20% of the $120,000 or $24,000.
How To Hire A Veterans Law Attorney
Get Legal Help With Your VA Veterans Disability Claim
Reasons to Consider Hiring An Attorney
First things first. The only reason for a veteran to hire an attorney is
because the veteran believes that an attorney can help achieve a
more favorable result than the veteran alone would otherwise obtain.
That’s it. There is no other good reason.
When do you call a lawyer?
To hire or "retain" an attorney to guide you through a VA disability benefits appeal,
you must first have a denial of an application that you submitted.
The lawyer usually can't help you before that happens.
About 70% of original claims are denied. It's very likely you'll have something
denied so you can start thinking about an attorney now.
Hiring a lawyer isn't difficult. The first thing you need to know is that you probably
won't find a lawyer who is local to you. VA lawyers work at the federal level so as
long as they are certified by VA to represent veterans, you can choose a
lawyer who lives anywhere else away from you.
You may never meet your lawyer face to face. He or she will do all the work
for you by mail, electronic mail and filings and on the phone. There isn't much
hand holding to be done in VA cases, the evidence and the law will take care
of itself with your lawyer guiding things.
To find the lawyer who is right for you will require that you pick up the
phone or send some emails. The attorneys who are featured on this web
site are known to be reliable and committed to winning for veterans.
I urge you to talk to at least 2 or 3 prior to signing up with any attorney.
Look for an attorney who is prompt in getting back to you to discuss your case.
If you are shuffled from one "paralegal" to the next and you aren't able to speak
with the lawyer, move on to someone else.
The lawyer should seem interested in your case and spend enough time with
you that you believe that he or she understands all the issues.
If you are rushed or if the conversation is interrupted by other calls or people
barging into their office, you'll want to move on to the next person on your list.
Next up...the expense of hiring a lawyer. I hear it a lot,
"Jim. I don't have any money. I can't afford a lawyer!" You're about to be pleasantly
surprised when I tell you that even if you're dead broke, you can afford a great lawyer.