There is no absolute “yes” or “no” answer to this question.
Most Veterans will benefit from having an attorney represent them at the Veterans Court – also referred to as the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims or the CAVC.
Let’s talk about 3 of those benefits.
1) Typically, there is no “up-front” cost to hire a VA Benefits Lawyer at the Veterans Court.
The Veteran should never have to pay “out of pocket” for a VA Benefits Lawyer to represent them at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
The VA Benefits Lawyer who prevails for a Veteran before the CAVC typically get their fees reimbursed by the VA – if and only if they substantially prevail – under a law known as “EAJA” – Equal Access to Justice Act.
Note: some veterans disability attorneys will charge a contingency fee for their work before the CAVC in the event that the CAVC grants past-due benefits to the Veteran.
You can be charged BOTH – however, the veterans disability attorney has to reimburse the lower of the 2 fees to the Veteran under the EAJA offset rule (so long as the work performed at the CAVC and before the VARO/BVA are on the same claim).
When a veterans disability lawyer doesn’t cost a Veteran anything in terms of up-front costs, its hard to think of a reason that a Veteran wouldn’t spend some time trying to find the best VA disability attorney that they can.
2) The Person that Represents Himself (or Herself) has a Fool for a Client.
This is an old saying among lawyers.
It may be a bit harsh, but to an extent, a third-party is almost always able to advocate better for the Veteran.
By the time the Veteran has gotten to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, he or she has probably spent 5-10 years fighting their way through the bureaucracy.
Most Veterans that get to the Veterans Court are angry and frustrated about the system and want to talk about this before the CAVC.
A VA Benefits lawyer can help a Veteran stay focused on the issues and relief the Veteran seeks – and deserves.
3) VA Benefits Lawyers live and die by Court Deadlines.
Deadlines are a big reason that Veterans should consider hiring an accredited Veteran benefits attorney to represent them before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
There are many deadlines – such as deadlines for the Veteran to counter-designate the record, deadlines for briefs, deadlines for conferences, deadlines for replies, deadlines for appeals, etc.
For Veterans that are used to a bureaucracy that allows months or years for responses from the Veteran, the CAVC’s deadlines can cause a lot of stress.
VA Disability Attorneys are used to this – we live and die by deadlines and calendars.
And if we screw one up, we are on the hook for malpractice – unlike VSOs that can screw a Veteran left and right without repercussion.
4) A VA Disability Lawyer can help get a Remand.
Veterans should consider the consequences of a loss at the CAVC.
If the Veteran loses before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, then there are only two ways to proceed:
a) appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals or
b) start all over at the VA Regional Office with a request to reopen the claim.
The first option is not all that great – the Federal Circuit is extremely limited in its jurisdiction, and I would venture a guess that less than 5% of Veterans that appeal to the Fed Circuit get any relief.
The second option is not all that great either – the Veteran could likely lose the earlier effective date of their claim and have to start over from scratch in the VA’s nightmare bureaucracy.
There are things a veterans disability attorney can do – like try to negotiate a Joint Remand – that will give the Veteran more opportunities to prevail before the VA with the benefit of their earlier effective date.
All in all, there are a good number of reasons for a Veteran to hire an attorney before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
Don’t hire the VA Benefits Lawyer that you don’t feel comfortable working with.
Take some time, search around for and talk to a few attorneys that represent Veterans before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and consider hiring one to help represent you before the CAVC.
To help you do this, I publish a FREE eBook called “8 Things that Veterans Should Know Before Hiring an Attorney”. (Click on underlined text to get your free copy).
This eBook contains a LOT of tips and information about how to pick the VA Benefits Lawyer that is best for you and your claim.
And the Veterans Law Bookstore has several other eBooks and training videos – and many more resources – that may help to educate you about the VA Claims process and system in your VA disability claim or appeal.