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Signing a Fee Agreement is a Legal Document That Can Forced 

If You Seek Free Service, Contract Your Local VA 

Clients must understand the importance of honoring their contracts with their veterans' advocates, agents, and attorneys. Before entering into any agreement, they must read the contract thoroughly and comprehend its terms. Signing a contract without the intention of paying for the services rendered is disrespectful and illegal.

It is also important to note that your representative is aware that you are fully aware of the free services available to them at the VA. If this is your approach, you should locate the nearest VA hospital and visit the veterans' claim office or call 1-800-827-1000, and they will help you locate free services in your area. The VA claims office has well-trained personnel who will be glad to help fill out the necessary paperwork, make the clients gather their files, and send them off to the regional office without reviewing them or discussing your case or evidence. Therefore, when hiring a representative, veterans can no longer claim ignorance about what they are getting into.

When veterans sign the VA Form 21-22a, they grant their veterans' accredited representatives access to their VA and military medical records and claim files (C-File). This provides accredited representatives with comprehensive visibility into their cases. This means the accredited representatives fully know how and when they have assisted the clients. Discrepancies or claims that clients acted independently when the records indicate otherwise reflect poorly on the clients. Veterans who refuse to fulfill their contractual obligations should expect their representative to suspend or terminate their case; this does not stop the VA from working on your claim.

 

Veterans' advocates, agents, and attorneys prefer not to take on a veteran who jumps from rep to rep with no intention of honoring their contractual obligations. These professionals dedicate upwards of 60 hours on average to each case. When clients fail to pay, it undermines the efforts of the advocates and attorneys who genuinely care about their cases. The frustration associated with waiting for claims to process is understandable, but these delays are not within the control of the veterans' representatives—clients seek their expertise, and they deliver the services for which they were hired.

Don't Sign if You're Looking for Free Service

Most agents/attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you don't pay unless they recover back pay on your behalf. If you are presented with a document that's not a VA form, then you should assume it's a fee contract. Unless your representative explicitly tells you the service is free or pro bono, it is a contract, and you should refrain from signing it if you do not plan to honor it.

 

If You Are Not Satisfied with Your Representation

The proper way to address dissatisfaction is to contact your representative via phone or email and communicate your concerns directly. If you are unhappy with their services, do not let your representative waste time and resources on your claim. Most representatives will provide a path forward or assist in transitioning your case if necessary. If your account is paid in full, most representatives will give you a letter of release.

 

However, if you have entered into a contract and have an outstanding balance, your representative may not provide a letter of release until the balance is settled. Paying your balance is your responsibility, and revoking your representative's POA (VA Form 21-22a) does not release you from your financial obligation.

 

So, What Happens When You Bail on Your Representative and Your Contract?

If there are pending claims or appeals in process, you are still responsible for the work performed by the agent you left. This means that when you sign a new contract, you are now responsible for both contracts and the work performed by each representative. Be honest about your situation before you decide to switch.

 

It does not matter if your representative is an advocate or an attorney; if they are aware of your outstanding balance or lack of a release letter, they will not take your case without it. Honor your commitments and do not take advantage of those dedicated to helping you. Your representative would be within their rights to pursue legal action to collect, which can have the same negative impact as not paying your bills.

 

Keep the Relationship Professional

Your representative is not your buddy, so maintain a professional relationship. They are qualified to assist you because the VA recognizes their expertise. Your contract does not include frequent updates or hand-holding, nor does it cover status updates on your claim. Contact your representative when you have new evidence to add to your case. If you need constant reassurance, discuss this before signing the contract.

 

Communicate your expectations to your representative clearly; springing them on your agent later will spoil the relationship. If your expectations cannot be met, seek a representative to accommodate you. Most representatives handle hundreds or thousands of clients, so it is unrealistic to expect them to provide a play-by-play update. Utilize the VA app and eBenefits for real-time updates on your claim.

The Disability Advocates' Advice

So, how do you think you got back pay? It didn’t file itself. If you claim your representative didn’t win your case, you must be prepared to prove it. Representatives have access to and can see all relevant information, so do not dig yourself into a hole with baseless accusations. If they didn’t do the work and you didn’t do the work, then who did it? Yet, you are happy to accept the money without questioning the process, but you resist fulfilling your financial obligations. It’s not rocket science. Be aware of this responsibility and honor your commitment when signing the contract.

The VA Disability Advocates Main Office is Located in Las Vegas, NV. We Represent Veterans throughout the United States. 702-209-5722 

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