No. An accredited attorney or claims agent may generally charge claimants a fee only after an agency of original jurisdiction (e.g., a VA regional office) has issued a decision on a claim, a notice of disagreement has been filed, and the attorney or agent has filed a power of attorney and a fee agreement with Veteran Affairs (VA). An exception applies when an accredited attorney or claims agent receives a fee or salary from a disinterested third party. A third party is considered disinterested only if the entity or individual would not benefit financially from the successful outcome of the claim.
We note that some individuals charge a pre-filing “consultation” fee to inform a Veteran or survivor about VA benefits that may be available to them. In certain states, a license to practice law may be required to provide and charge a fee for such “consultations,” which may be considered giving legal advice.
- Such “consultation” fees are unlawful if they are charged after a Veteran or survivor becomes a VA claimant by expressing to the attorney or agent an intent to file a claim for VA benefits.
- A “consultation” fee may not be tied to the outcome of a claim filed with VA if the attorney or agent provides any claims assistance-that is, an attorney or agent cannot agree to refund the fee if, after the attorney or agent assists with a VA claim, VA ultimately denies the claim. Such a fee would amount to an unlawful contingency fee or advance payment for assistance with an application for VA benefits.
- VA-recognized Veterans service organizations, including their accredited representatives, are not permitted to receive fees for their services in connection with a VA claim in any instance.
- If VA determines that an accredited attorney or agent is improperly charging a fee for preparing, presenting, or prosecuting a claim prior to the filing of a notice of disagreement, VA may suspend or cancel the individual’s accreditation.