GP Mentor

How to Become a VA-Accredited Attorney

Sheila-Marie Finkelstein

“On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind. As a nation, let it be our pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind.”
—Dan Lipinski

We owe our veterans sufficient access to health care, adequate benefits, and the supplemental resources that these heroes were promised and that are so essential to their well-being and survival in civilian life after service. Yet, many veterans get caught in the bureaucratic/political process and do not receive the services and care to which they are entitled. One way that attorneys across the nation can help is to become accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA accredited”).

Most attorneys do not even know this is an option, let alone how to go about obtaining accreditation. Surprisingly, it is an easy process.

What Is the VA Accreditation Program?

VA accreditation is a program to ensure that veterans and their families receive appropriate representation on their VA benefits claims. VA accreditation is for the sole and limited purpose of preparing, presenting, and prosecuting claims before the VA. The VA accredits three types of individuals for this purpose:

  • Representatives of VA-recognized veterans service organizations (VSO)
  • Attorneys (as individuals, not through a law firm)
  • Claims agents (as individuals, not through an organization)

The sole purpose of VA accreditation is to represent claimants before the VA. VA accreditation does not imply that a representative is qualified to provide financial planning services or is otherwise endorsed by the VA. VA accreditation may not be used for marketing financial products or promoting a financial services business. Despite the VA’s efforts to ensure accredited individuals are responsible and qualified to provide representation on VA claims, claimants should exercise caution when selecting a representative.

What Is the Process to Become VA Accredited?

  • Step 1. Complete VA Form 21a.
  • Step 2. Attach necessary documentation (e.g., certificate of good standing from all state bars/courts)
  • Step 3. Submit your VA Form 21a and all attachments to the Office of General Counsel: Office of General Counsel (022D), 810 Vermont Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20420; fax: 202/273-0197, e-mail: ogcaccreditationmailbox@va.gov.

Attorney applications generally take between 60 and 120 days from submission to process; however, the process is more efficient when the application is submitted electronically.

How Do You Maintain Accreditation?

You must complete three hours of qualifying CLE requirements during the first 12-month period following the date of initial accreditation by the VA. Thereafter, you must complete three CLE hours every two years. You must provide copies of your completed training certificate to the VA’s Office of General Counsel, as well as submit an annual certification of good standing for any court/bar to which you are admitted to practice.

What Are the Statutes and Regulations that Govern VA Accreditation?

Chapter 59 of Title 38, U.S. Code, governs the representation of claimants for veterans benefits and the accreditation of representatives, agents, and attorneys. Title 38 is available in full at the U.S. Government Publishing Office website (gpo.gov).

Sections 14.626 through 14.637 of Title 38, Code of Federal Regulations, implement the statutes in Chapter 59 governing the representation of claimants for veterans benefits and the accreditation of representatives, agents, and attorneys. An unofficial searchable version of the Code of Federal Regulations including Title 38 is available at the U.S. Government Publishing Office website.

For more information, please visit the following websites:

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Sheila-Marie Finkelstein, Esq., is the principal estate, trusts, and probate attorney at AHAVA Law, P.C., in Newport Beach, California. She is a VA-accredited attorney and is passionate about veterans and servicemembers. She is a founding member and chair of the Orange County Bar Association Veterans & Military Committee (VetCom), a board member of the Veterans Legal Institute (VLI), and founded the pro bono Estate Clinic at the VLI.