Before I talk to you about the risks of using a Veteran Service Organization Representative, let me tell you a story from my Army days.
Ft. Hood is a pretty flat area, as those of you that have served there can attest.
When I served with B/20 Field Artillery (MLRS), one of my jobs was to recon and scout locations where we could hide the massive rocket launchers and counter-radar teams.
I had a Humvee driver – young Specialist (E-4) from somewhere in South Texas. This kid had a knack for getting our Humvee stuck on cliffs.
In Ft. Hood, Texas.
Where you wouldn’t think there are cliffs.
I had to watch him like a hawk or he’d drive us right off the cliffs.
Bad as he was at driving, though, nobody was better getting comms on our radios when nobody else could get the radios working. The kid was good at radios, nobody was better.
A Veteran Service Organization Representative Can Drive Veterans off Cliffs in their Appeals.
VSOs reps – Veteran Service Organization Representatives – are like my driver in the story above: there are things that they are really good at, and things that they suck at.
Recently, I was looking at the website of a particular Veteran Service Organization Representative in Texas.
Here is what was posted on their website describing the flow of a VA Claim through the appeal process. Can you spot the error in this form?
If not, I’ve circled it in red, below.
That font is pretty hard to read. Here is what they say – and this is not correct – the Substantive Appeal must be filed “…within 60 days of the letter acknowledging receipt of the Notice of Disagreement.”
Follow this Veteran Service Organization Representative’s guidance, and you WILL miss your deadline and your appeal will be over.
To be clear, the deadline to file a Substantive Appeal is 60 days from the date on the Statement of the Case (SOC), NOT the date that the VA Acknowledges Receipt of the NOD.
Frankly, I don’t think any Veteran Service Organization Representative – national or local – should be handling appeals.
They don’t have the resources or the capacity for it.
They may be good at working with Raters to push through the claims they think are most deserving, but appeals take a bit of work and skill.
If I had a nickel for every C-File that had an incomplete or unpersuasive (or legally flawed) appeal, well, I’d have a whole bag full of nickels.
Few thousand dollars, probably.
And these are the folks that the VA wants you to use to help clear up the backlog. Be careful – there is a lot of money riding on keeping this backlog going, and I don’t know that I’d be following the advice of the government agency that got you in a bind in the first place.
There’s a reason that the VA didn’t tell you to hire an attorney.
More often than not, accredited VA attorneys whose livelihood depends on your success are far better at getting your VA appeal squared away.
There’s no recourse against a VSO’s negligence, either. Ask your fellow Vets if any of them have successfully sued a Veteran Service Organization Representative for negligence in the claims process.
I know of 1 Vet that sued and recovered money in a settlement against a Veteran Service Organization Representative.
The rest of the Veterans I’ve met who were screwed by an untrained VSO had to live with the mistakes the VSO made.
This Veteran could have sued an attorney if the attorney made this error – but the Veteran Service Organization Representative got off free.
I talk to dozens of Veterans every month who are screwed over when a VSO tells them to seek “reconsideration” – a process that does NOT exist in VA claims jargon.
If you hire a Veteran Service Organization Representative to handle your original claim, that will probably work out fine.
But when it comes time to file an appeal, though, its time to give serious consideration to an attorney. If an attorney messes up a deadline like the one above, there will be big consequences that could affect that attorney’s career.
Be sure to check up on your VSO, find their reputation locally, and talk with the VSO rep that handles the claims. There are good ones and bad ones; the one that is good down here in Waco might be atrocious in St. Louis.
Before your Veteran Service Organization Representative gets you stuck on a cliff, when you get your ratings decision and want to appeal to the BVA, give serious consideration to talking with an accredited VA attorney.