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Relief!

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Shark

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I have been fighting this claim for 4 years, finally got rated 80% in July, flied for TDIU and got denied because some rater found me mentioned on the internet as a member of a professional association and I have advanced degrees so he made the leap that I was employable, despite Psychologists and Psychiatrists statements that I am not employable! DAV screwed me all up, first filing for a DRO and then changing it to a traditional BVA.

I was going nuts, and finally said the heck with it and went looking for an attorney. I am sure there are many out there, but Mark Lippman (www.veteranslaw.com) discussed my case with me and accepted me as a client. Now, I haven't won anything yet, so cannot say he is a super attorney for vets, but he treated me good and I feel like a ton of bricks has been lifted off of my shoulders. I have an undergraduate law degree, an MBA and am working on a PhD, and I cannot figure this stuff out...drives me nuts (or maybe that is the PTSD kicking in!). I know that I am giving up 20%, but to me it is worth it to know that I have someone in my corner that knows what is going on and how to make things happen.

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  • HadIt.com Elder

Shark:

Looks like you are on your way. Good Luck on your claim.

Hadit can still help and you are welcome here,

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Shark

I appreciate your posting this. Please do not take this as gospel, but is it not possible that, assuming you "win" your case, the VA has to pay your attorney fees? In the "real" world, that is the way it works...if you wrong me, and I sue you, and win, they you have to pay for my attorney. I don't know if it works that way in the VA, but I think it SHOULD work that way. After all, this would force the VA to start making good decisions at the RO level, or pay up. Why should the Veteran pay for the attorney when the VA messes up?

I wonder if it is just a case of the attorney not asking..in other words why should the attorney care who pays the attorney fees, as long as the attorney gets his money. However, I would be VERY mad at an attorney who is paid to represent MY interests if he did not at least ASK the judge for the VA to pay my attorney bill. JMHO.

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I would like to add this:

The VA system is supposed to be Pro-Veteran, with things like the doctrine of equipose and the "favor the Veteran" rules. Of course, we know the VA is an expert at circumventing these and other Pro-Veteran rules, and manipulating them to serve their own purposes.

However, if the VA wound up paying huge attorney bills WHEN they do this manipulation in order to deny a Veterans benefits, then maybe they would be forced to rethink their "rubber stamp denial" concept..if that cost em big bucks, and Veterans would be the winners of such change.

I also think the VA should pay the Veteran INTEREST on Retro's..why should they get out of this when everyone else has to pay interest? If you and I dont pay our bills, we have to pay more when they sue us..late charges, interest, penalties, etc, so why should the VA get off scott free? No wonder they delay our claims..it pays them to do just that. WE have to pay INTEREST if we dont pay our copays on time, so why dont they have to pay us interest if they dont pay our benefits on time?

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38 C.F.R. § 20.609 Rule 609. Payment of representative's fees in proceedings before Department of Veterans Affairs field personnel and before the Board of Veterans' Appeals.

Title 38 - Pensions, Bonuses, and Veterans' Relief

Title 38: Pensions, Bonuses, and Veterans' Relief

PART 20—BOARD OF VETERANS' APPEALS: RULES OF PRACTICE

Subpart G—Representation

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§ 20.609 Rule 609. Payment of representative's fees in proceedings before Department of Veterans Affairs field personnel and before the Board of Veterans' Appeals.

(a) Applicability of rule. The provisions of this section apply to the services of representatives with respect to benefits under laws administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs in all proceedings before Department of Veterans Affairs field personnel or before the Board of Veterans' Appeals regardless of whether an appeal has been initiated.

(:P Who may charge fees for representation. Only agents and attorneys-at-law may receive fees from claimants or appellants for their services. Recognized organizations (including their accredited representatives when acting as such) and individuals recognized pursuant to Rule 605 (§20.605 of this part) are not permitted to receive fees. An attorney-at-law or agent who may also be an accredited representative of a recognized organization may not receive such fees unless he or she has been properly designated as representative in accordance with Rule 603(a) or Rule 604(a) (§20.603(a) or §20.604(a) of this part) in his or her individual capacity.

© Circumstances under which fees may be charged—(1) General. Except as noted in paragraph (d) of this section, attorneys-at-law and agents may charge claimants or appellants for their services only if both of the following conditions have been met:

(i) A final decision has been promulgated by the Board of Veterans' Appeals with respect to the issue, or issues, involved; and

(ii) The attorney-at-law or agent was retained not later than one year following the date that the decision by the Board of Veterans' Appeals with respect to the issue, or issues, involved was promulgated. (This condition will be considered to have been met with respect to all successor attorneys-at-law or agents acting in the continuous prosecution of the same matter if a predecessor was retained within the required time period.)

(2) Clear and unmistakable error cases. For the purposes of this section, in the case of a motion under subpart O of this part (relating to requests for revision of prior Board decisions on the grounds of clear and unmistakable error), the “issue” referred to in this paragraph © shall have the same meaning as “issue” in Rule 1401(a) (§20.1401(a) of this part).

(d) Exceptions—(1) Chapter 37 loans. With respect to services of agents and attorneys provided after October 9, 1992, a reasonable fee may be charged or paid in connection with any proceeding in a case arising out of a loan made, guaranteed, or insured under chapter 37, United States Code, even though the conditions set forth in paragraph © of this section are not met.

(2) Payment of fee by disinterested third party. (i) An attorney-at-law or agent may receive a fee or salary from an organization, governmental entity, or other disinterested third party for representation of a claimant or appellant even though the conditions set forth in paragraph © of this section have not been met. In no such case may the attorney or agent charge a fee which is contingent, in whole or in part, on whether the matter is resolved in a manner favorable to the claimant or appellant.

(ii) For purposes of this part, a person shall be presumed not to be disinterested if that person is the spouse, child, or parent of the claimant or appellant, or if that person resides with the claimant or appellant. This presumption may be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence that the person in question has no financial interest in the success of the claim.

(iii) The provisions of paragraph (g) of this section (relating to fee agreements) shall apply to all payments or agreements to pay involving disinterested third parties. In addition, the agreement shall include or be accompanied by the following statement, signed by the attorney or agent: “I certify that no agreement, oral or otherwise, exists under which the claimant or appellant will provide anything of value to the third-party payer in this case in return for payment of my fee or salary, including, but not limited to, reimbursement of any fees paid.”.

(e) Fees permitted. Fees permitted for services of an attorney-at-law or agent admitted to practice before the Department of Veterans Affairs must be reasonable. They may be based on a fixed fee, hourly rate, a percentage of benefits recovered, or a combination of such bases. Factors considered in determining whether fees are reasonable include:

(1) The extent and type of services the representative performed;

(2) The complexity of the case;

(3) The level of skill and competence required of the representative in giving the services;

(4) The amount of time the representative spent on the case;

(5) The results the representative achieved, including the amount of any benefits recovered;

(6) The level of review to which the claim was taken and the level of the review at which the representative was retained;

(7) Rates charged by other representatives for similar services; and

(8) Whether, and to what extent, the payment of fees is contingent upon the results achieved.

(f) Presumption of reasonableness. Fees which total no more than 20 percent of any past-due benefits awarded, as defined in Rule 20.3(n) (§20.3(n) of this part), will be presumed to be reasonable.

(g) Fee agreements. All agreements for the payment of fees for services of attorneys-at-law and agents (including agreements involving fees or salary paid by an organization, governmental entity or other disinterested third party) must be in writing and signed by both the claimant or appellant and the attorney-at-law or agent. The agreement must include the name of the veteran, the name of the claimant or appellant if other than the veteran, the name of each disinterested third-party payer (see paragraph (d)(2) of this section), the applicable Department of Veterans Affairs file number, and the specific terms under which the amount to be paid for the services of the attorney-at-law or agent will be determined. A copy of the agreement must be filed with the Board of Veterans' Appeals within 30 days of its execution by mailing the copy to the following address: Office of the Senior Deputy Vice Chairman (012), Board of Veterans' Appeals, 810 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20420.

(h) Payment of fees by Department of Veterans Affairs directly to an attorney-at-law from past-due benefits. (1) Subject to the requirements of the other paragraphs of this section, including paragraphs © and (e), the claimant or appellant and an attorney-at-law may enter into a fee agreement providing that payment for the services of the attorney-at-law will be made directly to the attorney-at-law by the Department of Veterans Affairs out of any past-due benefits awarded as a result of a successful appeal to the Board of Veterans' Appeals or an appellate court or as a result of a reopened claim before the Department following a prior denial of such benefits by the Board of Veterans' Appeals or an appellate court. Such an agreement will be honored by the Department only if the following conditions are met:

(i) The total fee payable (excluding expenses) does not exceed 20 percent of the total amount of the past-due benefits awarded,

(ii) The amount of the fee is contingent on whether or not the claim is resolved in a manner favorable to the claimant or appellant, and

(iii) The award of past-due benefits results in a cash payment to a claimant or an appellant from which the fee may be deducted. (An award of past-due benefits will not always result in a cash payment to a claimant or an appellant. For example, no cash payment will be made to military retirees unless there is a corresponding waiver of retirement pay. (See 38 U.S.C. 5304(a) and §3.750 et seq. of this chapter.))

(2) For purposes of this paragraph, a claim will be considered to have been resolved in a manner favorable to the claimant or appellant if all or any part of the relief sought is granted.

(3) For purposes of this paragraph, “past-due benefits” means a nonrecurring payment resulting from a benefit, or benefits, granted on appeal or awarded on the basis of a claim reopened after a denial by the Board of Veterans' Appeals or the lump sum payment which represents the total amount of recurring cash payments which accrued between the effective date of the award, as determined by applicable laws and regulations, and the date of the grant of the benefit by the agency of original jurisdiction, the Board of Veterans' Appeals, or an appellate court.

(i) When the benefit granted on appeal, or as the result of the reopened claim, is service connection for a disability, the “past-due benefits” will be based on the initial disability rating assigned by the agency of original jurisdiction following the award of service connection. The sum will equal the payments accruing from the effective date of the award to the date of the initial disability rating decision. If an increased evaluation is subsequently granted as the result of an appeal of the disability evaluation initially assigned by the agency of original jurisdiction, and if the attorney-at-law represents the claimant or appellant in that phase of the claim, the attorney-at-law will be paid a supplemental payment based upon the increase granted on appeal, to the extent that the increased amount of disability is found to have existed between the initial effective date of the award following the grant of service connection and the date of the rating action implementing the appellate decision granting the increase.

(ii) Unless otherwise provided in the fee agreement between the claimant or appellant and the attorney-at-law, the attorney-at-law's fees will be determined on the basis of the total amount of the past-due benefits even though a portion of those benefits may have been apportioned to the claimant's or appellant's dependents.

(iii) If an award is made as the result of favorable action with respect to several issues, the past-due benefits will be calculated only on the basis of that portion of the award which results from action taken on issues concerning which the criteria in paragraph © of this section have been met.

(4) In addition to filing a copy of the fee agreement with the Board of Veterans' Appeals as required by paragraph (g) of this section, the attorney-at-law must notify the agency of original jurisdiction within 30 days of the date of execution of the agreement of the existence of an agreement providing for the direct payment of fees out of any benefits subsequently determined to be past due and provide that agency with a copy of the fee agreement.

(i) Motion for review of fee agreement. The Board of Veterans' Appeals may review a fee agreement between a claimant or appellant and an attorney-at-law or agent upon its own motion or upon the motion of any party to the agreement and may order a reduction in the fee called for in the agreement if it finds that the fee is excessive or unreasonable in light of the standards set forth in paragraph (e) of this section. Such motions must be in writing and must include the name of the veteran, the name of the claimant or appellant if other than the veteran, and the applicable Department of Veterans Affairs file number. Such motions must set forth the reason, or reasons, why the fee called for in the agreement is excessive or unreasonable; must be accompanied by all evidence the moving party desires to submit; and must include a signed statement certifying that a copy of the motion and any evidence was sent by first-class mail, postage prepaid, to each other party to the agreement, setting forth the address to which each such copy was mailed. Such motions (other than motions by the Board) must be filed at the following address: Office of the Senior Deputy Vice Chairman (012), Board of Veterans' Appeals, 810 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20420. The other parties may file a response to the motion, with any accompanying evidence, with the Board at the same address not later than 30 days following the date of receipt of the copy of the motion and must include a signed statement certifying that a copy of the response and any evidence was sent by first-class mail, postage prepaid, to each other party to the agreement, setting forth the address to which each such copy was mailed. Once there has been a ruling on the motion, an order shall issue which will constitute the final decision of the Board with respect to the motion. If a reduction in the fee is ordered, the attorney or agent must credit the account of the claimant or appellant with the amount of the reduction and refund any excess payment on account to the claimant or appellant not later than the expiration of the time within which the ruling may be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

(j) In addition to whatever other penalties may be prescribed by law or regulation, failure to comply with the requirements of this section may result in proceedings under §14.633 of this chapter to terminate the attorney's or agent's right to practice before the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Board of Veterans' Appeals.

(Authority: 38 U.S.C. 5902, 5904, 5905)

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