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How to find an attorney (for Veterans)?

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broncovet

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Many Veterans have grown tired of denial, delay, more denials, more delays.  Its what the VA does.  

There are 2 legitimate organazations you should know about.   I have used both of these, and found them to be top notch.  They are NVLSP and NOVA, links provided below:  

1.  NVLSP Free Legal services.   (Pro BONO).  Some examples:  You are a Nehmer Vet (generally that means you served in Vietnam, or overseas, but ask, if unsure). Agent orange.  "Bad discharge".  (aka "bad paper)

The military is known for "handing bad discharges" to PTSD Vets instead of helping them.  This is very frustrating.   Some Vets even try drugs or alcohol (self medicate) to ease PTSD.  

Check their website, or just call them:

https://www.nvlsp.org/what-we-do/lawyers-serving-warriors

2.NOVA.    NVLSP cant help everyone, not every one falls into a category they can help with.  But, you can sometimes still get legal help at no cost!   Example:  If you have been unfairly denied by the BVA, and need to appeal to the cavc, there are often law firms willing to help, and many will do so "just for eaja fees" which means no cost to you!  Yes, I did just that, so Im speaking from experience.  

The law firm of Attig Steele represented me, and won a remand.  They got their fees 100 percent from EAJA.  I paid them zero.  I paid around 500 for an IMO, upon the advice of my attorney, then won at the BVA with only minimal help from a VSO (I did most of that)..  I got a very nice retro check with none deducted for law fees.  But, I got professional representation at the cavc, as well as advice on what to do to win at the BVA, upon remand. 

Another law firm also won a remand for me at the CAVC also got eaja fees, but represented me at the BVA.  I paid "partial" fees, because lawyers can not collect from me and the eaja, except to the extent that the 20 percent fee I agreed to exceeded the eaja fees. 

https://www.vetadvocates.org/cpages/sustaining-members-directory

NOTE:   ************There is a shortage of lawyers who represent Veterans*************************

There are about 20 million Vets, and probably 1000 Vet lawyers.  Do the math.  Many are so busy they can not take new clients.  Others choose "particular types" of clients they are familar with.  Example:  PTSD or Earlier effective dates.  

And, so dont be upset if the first one or two law firms turn you down.  I usually contacted at least 3 or more, before I found one who agreed to represent me.  Dont be discouraged if one or more says no.  

I was turned down for representation more than I was represented!!!  And I won anyway!!!

But, I won for different reasons than I thought.  

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Generally, law firms wont represent you at the VA until you have received "at least one denial letter". A possible exception is "bad paper", but ask the NVLSP about that one.  

 

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Bronco, how long did it take you to get the Remand responded to.  My remand was by joint motion 10/20/23.  Feels like longer than that.  Was pissed because the attorney accepted a partial remand.  Should have been a full remand because the BVA Judge (probably the clerk's doing because of the work I put on her by submitting a brief and motions) slammed me into AMA without my consent allowing no response to motions or consideration of brief.

I have to submit a supplemental claim to get the SMC claim considered?

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If this is a remand from the cavc to the Board, which mine were, those took in the 3 to 6 months area "AFTER" I submitted the applicable new evidence AND everything was done on my end.  If you need an IMO (most of the time you do from a cavc remand to the Board), then this does not count the time you spend obtaining an IMO.  

Remands say, "they are to be given 'expiditious treatment'".  The trouble with that is, "expiditious treatment is defined by VA to mean "whenever they get around to it or they feel like it, which ever is later, unless they dont like the Veteran's attitude, then add much more time to that definition, as much time as applicable VA officals may so choose".  

Its high time VA is given time limits.  Right now, Veterans have time limits VA has none.  They can literally delay your claim for decades, and they do, at will.  

Chevron Deference (aka Auer defense)  has given VA wide lattitude in interpreting their own regulations.  As an example, Shinski decided "reducing Veteran's homelessness" was defined as "making Veterans wait as long as possible for benefits, making as many Veterans homeless as possible."   Which is, of course, the exact opposite of its intended purpose. 

The good news, however is that Chevron Deference may be overturned by the US Supreme Court:

https://www.duanemorris.com/alerts/us_supreme_court_signals_it_may_jettison_chevron_doctrine_0124.html#:~:text=The oral arguments in Loper,is where it is unclear. 

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I am following that too. Also, Hurley vs McDonough, (think I got that CC&K case name right) on SMC for those of us with TBI and have been in PTSD therapy for years.  I was out for a while.  Took anti-depressants until I was put on seizure meds which work better.  They are just harder on the liver and you cannot stop them suddenly without risk of status epilepticus and death.  SMC T seems fair after all the poverty living and waiting 35 years to get paid for TDIU.  If they had treated TBI victims better back then, maybe it would not have made our CTE progress.  Never know.

For those receiving "directed care", I have new information.  There is a contractor called Liv Health that I have an appointment with after trying Home Instead that lets you hire you caregivers and they pay them.  Social worker who called me yesterday said I could submit the application for PCAFC online and start with Liv Health while waiting for PCAFC which will be easier.  Do not know how many hours per week I am going to get with Liv Health.  The approval at the moment is for 14 hours.  I understand top is 24 hours per week.  Then you have to go into a nursing home.

My first respite is going to cause me to write a complaint to VA OIG.  I live in Torrington and the nearest respite care is in Cheyenne, which is full because it is located in Wyoming/Northern Colorado high population density area.  That means Rawlins, WY which is on the other side of the State.  Low density population area so no wonder that is where they send those of us respite care to give our caregivers a break.

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Bronco, I don't know when your Court fees were paid by the EAJA. I went up to the CAVC in 2021. At one time an attorney was  allowed to collect EAJA fees and then the attorney was required to deduct that ammount from what the veteran owed.    

When I hired CCK to take my case, CCK won a joint motion for remand. I also retained them to take the case back to the Board. I was informed that the law had been changed and an attorney no longer had to deduct the amount EAJA fees from what the veteran was charged. I paid both. $4,700.00 was paid by EAJA funds, Then I had to pay $48,000.00 on top of that for the 20% that I owed. I also paid for the IMO that CCK had fronted.

Bottom line, hiring an attorney is very expensive, But worth it in the end if there is a large retro outstanding.

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That's correct, JamesCripps.  EAJA pays the fees for legal services at the CAVC.  At the BVA, "if the Veteran and his attorney choose to continue representation at that level", the Veteran will have to pay the applicable legal fees before the BVA.  Since Attig Steele, at least when I dealt with them "did not represent" Veterans at the BVA, this meant zero net fees to me.   This is something each Veteran should discuss with his/her attorney.    In this instance, Chris Attig felt I was well capable of handling the remand at the BVA (from the CAVC won remand), and I chose not to get another attorney.  Instead, I changed my poa to a VSO, because, I know that VA tends to mess it up when you simply drop the poa.  

In another trip to the CAVC, I was. represented by Glover Luck law firm.  Once again, Glover Luck won a remand  but this time they represented me before the BVA, upon remand.  Again I won benefits.  And, again, the law firm applied for eaja fees before the CAVC.     How that one went down:  The total fees amounted to $6000 ish.   But, the law firm had collected $5000 in EAJA fees.   So, I was refunded the EAJA fees, as the lawyer explained she could not accept duplicate fees from both eaja and me.  My net lawyer fees was approx $1000.   

As far as I know, that has not changed, but always ask your attorney.    In a nutshell:

At CAVC:  EAJA should pay the fees.  

AT BVA:  The Veteran pays the fees.  

As always, you should ask your attorney about the fees before hiring him/her, so you have a clear understanding.  As James Cripps accurately pointed out, laws change and we are not always aware when they do.  

As I wrote in the past:

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Advice given on this site is not a substitute for consulting a competent NOVA law firm.  

NOVA:  https://www.vetadvocates.org/cpages/sustaining-members-directory  Laws can change anytime, and we are not always sent a letter when they do.  They may even have already changed and I was not aware of the change.  Its a lawyers job to keep up with the law changes.   

Generally, attorney fees are "not set", but can be negotiated between client and attorney.  They are often in the 20 percent to 35 percent range.  

"If" a law firm charges more than 20 percent, he often has to "justify" this higher fee with the VA.   Some cases are extraordinarily complex, some take an extended amount of time/and or lawyer time.  The lawyer does that, you dont have to.  The VA thinks 20 percent is "fair" and anything above that has to be justified.   That is, the attorney may need to show he worked on the case more hours.  

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Generally, any reputable atty will have a fee agreement signed by you and them, at the beginning of their service, to you, and you should receive a signed copy, then.  Usually, you have to pay for extra out of pocket expenses, separately, IMO's, copies, court fees, if any, etc.  They should also send you monthly updates of expenses, although many don't these days.  

Once they win at the CAVC, at least in the case of a remand, they will bill the EAJA and release/discontinue their services w/you.  This is what happened to me twice.

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