Finding the right lawyer to represent you can be tricky, whether you’re looking for help in family court or someone to help you after you’re injured in a car accident.
When it comes to looking for a VA disability lawyer, your livelihood may be on the line. More than 5.4 million U.S. veterans around the world receive VA compensation to help make sure they can support themselves and their families, regardless of injuries and health problems incurred during their service to our country.
For many veterans, disability compensation helps ensure they can live comfortably. And with VA disability payments ranging from $171.23 up to more than $3,737.85, getting the correct rating and full benefits you deserve can make a big difference.
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While many veterans can benefit from free help from a VSO for simple, straightforward VA claims, there are many circumstances in which veterans can benefit from hiring a VA disability lawyer instead. With your benefits on the line, however, you want to make sure you hire the right attorney. That’s why we’ve come up with six questions to help you narrow down your search.
1. Is the lawyer legitimate?
The first question to ask when looking for representation on a VA disability claim is whether the person you’re considering is a legitimate lawyer working for a legitimate law firm. It may not be obvious immediately. A couple ways to verify the legitimacy of a lawyer include:
- Check whether they are listed as a practicing lawyer with a bar association or similar organization. Many U.S. cities and states have bar associations that make searching for a licensed lawyer easier. While it’s not foolproof, given that some states do not offer these search tools and some bar associations are voluntary rather than mandatory, they may be able to help you get started on verifying a lawyer’s legitimacy.
Indiana offers a roll of attorneys through the Office of Judicial Administration where our Indiana-based lawyers can be found. Here’s one example of what this looks like:
VA disability lawyers, specifically, are easier to search for, which we will explain below.
- See if the lawyer has an online presence and physical building. It can be helpful to find the law office’s physical location to verify they are an operating firm, especially if a representative has solicited you. While it is also not foolproof, many legitimate lawyers will have a working phone number, a presence on social media, and a website. The Better Business Bureau has some tips for verifying that a website is real and safe. If you are being sent to an unsafe website, this may be a red flag.
2. Is the lawyer VA-accredited?
Lawyers practice in a wide variety of areas of the law. Just because a lawyer is licensed to practice does not mean they are familiar with VA disability law. While there can never be a guarantee of success, lawyers who have previously focused on VA disability cases will typically be more familiar with the VA’s forms, procedures, and best practices.
Additionally, there are many non-lawyers out there looking to help veterans with their VA disability claim. Some of these people are accredited claims agents and VSOs. While they are not lawyers, they are still able to help with your claim. Others are bad players who are neither lawyers nor VA-accredited. These scammers are much more likely to charge illegal, unethical fees, often for access to information that’s available elsewhere online for free. Accreditation also ensures those who complete the process are trained and educated on VA disability.
No matter whether you’re seeking a VA disability lawyer, claims agent, or VSO, it can be a good idea to make sure they are accredited. Any individual accredited by the VA will have an accreditation number, which looks like this:
Any veteran can use the Office of General Counsel’s free search tool to find out if the person they are considering to represent their claim is VA-accredited.
3. Where is the VA disability lawyer located?
Common questions we get are “Do I need a VA disability lawyer near me?” and “Who is the best VA disability lawyer near me?” Something important to keep in mind when looking for a lawyer to represent you on your claim is that you don’t need to look locally.
Many types of lawyers litigate in person in court, but not VA disability lawyers. Because most VA claims are adjudicated at VA regional offices and the BVA, there is no open courtroom for you and your lawyer to enter. This means instead of being limited to local options, you can search nationwide for the best VA disability lawyers in the country to see if they can take your case.
4. How much does the VA disability lawyer cost?
The VA Ssecretary has determined reasonable fees an accredited VA lawyer can collect, and when a fee can be collected. Fee agreements will vary from one VA disability lawyer to the next, but accredited representatives are not allowed to charge unreasonable fees.
U.S. Code establishes that a contingency fee that does not exceed 20% of past-due benefits is reasonable. On the other hand, a contingency fee that exceeds 33.33% of past-due benefits is considered unreasonable.
In other words, most VA disability lawyers cost the equivalent of 20% to 33.3% of past-due benefits they help you collect. Woods and Woods will never charge more than what U.S. Code allows.
Your future monthly disability checks should not be part of the cost of a VA disability lawyer. You should also never be charged for help filing an application for a claim, only for help appealing a decision you disagree with. The accreditation process helps keep bad players from charging unreasonable fees. Fee models that ask you to pay, for example, “five times your monthly increase in benefits,” may be a sign of a scammer.
“From the day we contacted [Woods and Woods], they made us feel so comfortable. They treated us like we mattered and we were not just clients but family.”
L.B., a Navy veteran and wife in FloridaGoogle review
5. What are the reviews saying about the law firm?
Reading reviews can be a helpful way to further narrow down your search for the best VA disability lawyer for you once you know they are legitimate, accredited, and charging a reasonable fee.
While most companies with hundreds of reviews will have some bad comments in the mix, most people will look for a higher overall rating on sites like Google, Birdeye, and Facebook when searching for the right lawyer. Reading reviews can help you get a better understanding of a firm. Some things to look for in reviews include:
- Did many reviewers have a positive outcome on their claim with the lawyer?
- Did reviewers experience good customer service?
- Was it easy to communicate with the firm? Were they timely in communicating information to clients? Were they transparent with updates, fees, etc.?
- Are any reviewers working with the lawyer on a claim similar to yours? Some attorneys will focus on certain types of claims. For example, one firm may have the staffing capacity and knowledge to help on DIC claims while another does not. Reviews may give you an insight into whether your claim will be a good fit for the firm.
Some clients may also share video testimonials about their experiences with a law firm.
6. What are the VA disability lawyer’s results?
Finding a VA disability lawyer’s success rate can be difficult. For example, legal and ethical standards in our home state of Indiana prevent us from sharing the Woods and Woods success rate. Some firms in other states are able to share exactly how successful they have been in a given year and what percentage of cases they’ve won.
Firms may also be able to share how much in missing back pay benefits they have helped veterans recover. While we can’t tell you a success rate, we can share that Woods and Woods has helped thousands of veterans nationwide recover more than $880 million in past-due benefits since 2016. In 2022 alone, we helped veterans recover more than $140 million. You may look for similar language from other firms as you search for the best VA disability lawyer for you.
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