Just after the Civil War, Congress by statute prohibited lawyers from representing military veterans in their claims for benefits from the United States while charging a fee for the lawyer’s services. A modified form of that prohibition continues today. 38 U.S.C. § 5904(c). A lawyer may not charge a veteran, or other claimant such as a surviving spouse or child, a fee for services related to an initial claim for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Id. Under the current law, however, legal fees may be charged for representing a veteran after the VA first decides the claim. Fees may also be available for representing a claimant in an appeal to a court from a final administrative decision. In some circumstances, the VA is liable for the veteran’s legal fees. The purposes of this article are to describe when and under what circumstances the VA must pay fees to the appellant’s lawyer for an appeal to a court; explain how, when, and where a claim for fees may be filed; and, hopefully, encourage senior lawyers and others to help meet the legal needs of veterans, their dependents, and survivors.
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