This post is going to stir up some controversy.
You see there’s this myth out there that the VA Disability Attorney is only “in it” for the money.
I hate this myth, and I work very hard to destroy it. How do I do that?
As a VA Disability Attorney, I’m a Man on a Mission. You see, I’m also one of you – a service-connected disabled Veteran.
After seeing how hard it was for me, as an attorney, to navigate the VA Claims Process, I shut down my employment law practice to build a law firm that represents Veterans.
I started representing only Veterans battling the VA for service-connection.
Since 2007, I have also posted over 1000 posts on the Veterans Law Blog, published over a dozen VA Claims Field Manuals, and recorded hours of training materials: all to help Veterans cut through the fog of VA Claims.
No other accredited VA attorney – and no national VSO – that I know of is out there is sharing this level of information to help Veterans get better at handling their OWN VA Claims or appeals.
As an accredited VA attorney, I represent a lot of Veterans in their VA Claims and Appeals. But I can’t represent everyone.
That’s one of the reasons I started the Veterans Law Blog – to teach more of the Veterans I can’t help just how they could help themselves.
And its working too – I get emails every week from Veterans that found their way out of the Hamster Wheel because of the information on the Veterans Law Blog and Veterans Law Blog Bookstore.
Here are some of the biggest reasons that my law firm declines to offer representation as a VA Disability Attorney.
#1: It’s a Question of Numbers.
There are approximately 21 Million Veterans. About 3 million of those Veterans are disabled Veterans. There are about 600,000 stuck in the VA Disability appeals backlog.
That’s a lot of Veterans needing the help of a VA Disability Attorney.
I can’t help everyone. Let’s crunch some general numbers to see what I mean:
The average Veterans disability appeal takes a minimum of 80 hours of work to get a decision (that’s an average – some take far more work).
To help every Veteran that needs help, I would have to hire 11,538 attorneys that are willing to work 80 hour weeks to do it, too.
If I paid them a $40,000 salary – a low salary even for a public service attorney (and much higher than my own current salary, by the way) – I’d have to raise $462 million dollars.
The point is this – there’s not enough money out there to be able to represent every Veteran that needs help.
Unless you’re willing to spot me $462 million dollars – there’s just no way I can represent every Veteran that needs help against the VA.
So we make decisions about which Veterans we can help and which cases we want to work on.
The least important factor in making that decision is “money” – though I do run a business, and to stay in business, I have to take cases which recover more money than they cost.
At Attig | Steel, for example, there are certain types of cases that we like to work on. There are certain types that we are really good at. And there are certain types that we just don’t have the resources to handle.
#2: All other things being equal, I try to offer help to those that are most in need.
The other day, I turned a Veteran down for representation as a VA Disability Attorney.
He had a good case, and there was a large amount of past due benefits on the table.
It would have made for a nice attorney fee.
Why did I turn this Veteran down?
Because what he needed to do to win his claim was so simple, and so straightforward, that he would be better off handling it himself.
If he just submitted a little bit of lay evidence showing the work he did on the perimeter of the Thai Airbase where he was stationed, the evidence suggested that he’d have a pretty good chance of winning his presumptive Agent Orange claim.
I couldn’t justify helping him, and taking a fee on a case for doing so little work – while at the same time turning down another Veteran who needed a LOT of legal help from a VA Disability Attorney.
I told him the basic steps he needed to follow to navigate the process more easily; I have no doubt that he will be successful – and he’ll get to keep all of his past-due benefits.
#3: There are some types of people that a VA Disability Attorney won’t work with.
As a VA Disability Attorney, I realize that Veterans are contacting me in their worst moments, and that they are usually under a great deal of stress.
So we cut folks a lot of slack when they are rude, short, uncivil or impolite to our staff.
And I’ve worked with some really angry people – believe me, I can look past a lot of bad behavior from my clients.
Point is, I don’t expect folks to be happy go-lucky bundles of unicorns and rainbows when they call our office. I can accept that many of you are angry – believe me, I am too!
This VA Claims Process is a nightmare, and destroys peoples lives.
But – far too often – we run into Veterans that cuss out a team member at my Firm.
One Veteran told an employee that she was stupid for asking him a question.
Another threatened to blow something up if we didn’t take his case.
Just the other day, a Veteran threatened to kill my children. Yeah – that ACTUALLY happened.
And then there are the ones that call us 3-4 times a day, yelling at us because the VA hasn’t granted their complicated claim or appeal yet.
Bottom line – it’s okay to be angry, cranky, irritable or mad when you call us. Dealing with the VA makes ME angry, cranky, irritable and mad.
Just don’t take your frustration with the VA out on us.
Remember that we are not the enemy. If you treat us like the enemy, there is a good chance we won’t work with you.
We are trying to help. And in many cases, we do help.
I’ve put over three quarters of a million dollars into building and growing my law firm.
I estimate I’ve worked about 32,000 hours in the past 9 years – teaching Vets, representing Vets and helping Veterans reintegrate.
Each day we are able to do a little more to help more Veterans. And until we can do all that I want, I’m the lowest paid employee on my team (next to the Interns and the part-timers).
As a VA Disability Attorney – and a service-connected Veteran myself – I have nothing but love for all my brothers and sisters in arms.
But if you attack my team and my staff – curse them out, call them stupid, and yell and scream at them for no good reason – we aren’t going to represent you.
No matter how good your case is.
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Do you know of any AO cases that are NOT from VN or Thai perimeter / security guard that have been granted ?
One time exposure to AO and then later a “presumptive” illness ? ( in my case nHL ).
Yes…for example Korean DMZ…Many stateside bases where AO was tested. Other Vets are working on Kadena in Okinawa, and other places.
Where did you serve that you were exposed?
You turned me down, now I understand why. Thanks. I was a VA Disability Medical Examiner and was willing to help.
Good piece of writing. Needed to be said, but you were too kind in not mentioning that some VA claims lack merit. Not many, but SOME.
True, Ron, very true.
Some do, but they are few and far between.
I am very hesitant to tell veterans that their claims lack merit….here’s why. I have a client who was turned down by a dozen attorneys – some attorneys told her that her claim was “no good”. One even lectured her about wasting his time (I knew this attorney actually – he’s kind of a jerk).
I ended up taking the case, got the Veterans Court to remand it, and I’m confident we will prevail when we get it back to the BVA.