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August 18, 2013

VETERANS’ CORNER: Program aims to cut disability pay claims

By JIM VINES

The American Bar Association and the Legal Services Corporation, in conjunction with the Department of Veterans Affairs, announced Aug. 12 a new partnership and pilot program aimed at reducing the claims for disability pay.

In the coming months, ABA and LSC attorneys will provide free assistance to a targeted group of unrepresented veterans who request their help gathering and obtaining evidence required by law to support their disability claims.

The development of the claim is often the longest part of the process that determines whether a veteran is entitled to VA compensation. These steps can take more than 200 days in the rating decision process. The pilot will offer pro bono attorney assistance to veterans with claims pending who do not currently have an authorized representative. Check with your regional office for participation.

The claims selected for this pilot program, which is currently or will soon be part of the claims backlog, will vary in terms of complexity and degree of completeness. The VA will accredit the attorneys who choose to participate and the ABA and LSC will provide them with specialized training that will enable them to help evaluate and develop veterans claims and make those claims ready for a rating decision.

In the coming months, the VA will identify eligible veterans to participate in the pilot program and send letters advising them of all their options for representation to help advance their claims from veteran service organizations, attorneys and claims agents, to pro bono attorneys participating in this pilot. The VA letter will inform veterans of a hotline and website to connect them to an attorney who is willing to assist with their claims, free of charge.

Under the partnership, the ABA and LSC will match interested veterans and attorneys on several factors, including geographic location, complexity of the claim and the veteran’s and attorney’s preferences on the nature and scope of representation.

To learn more, go to www.ebenefits.va.gov.

Speak to you again next week.

Jim Vines is commander of AmVets Post 133.

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