The VA claims process is, more often than not, frustrating for veterans. Thankfully, there are many individuals and organizations that exist to help veterans navigate the complex and bureaucratic process. However, some veterans choose to go it alone and fight the VA all by themselves. Unfortunately, it is those veterans who do not have a representative who often face the most difficulty in winning their benefits.
According to data released by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, claimants who do not have a representative are both the most likely to receive a denial and the least likely to have their claims granted. In appeals, only 22 percent of veterans without a representative receive a grant of benefits from the Board. This compares to about 26 percent in cases where a Veterans Service Organizations (like DAV and VFW) represents a veteran and over 35 percent for appeals where the veteran is represented by an attorney. Veterans who represent themselves similarly received the highest rate of denials, with the Board denying nearly 33 percent of cases where a veteran is unrepresented. By contrast, about 21 percent of veterans represented by a Veterans Service Organization received denials from the Board, and veterans represented by attorneys fared the best with a denial rate of about 13 percent.
The lesson to be taken from this data is simple: representation matters. Not only are veterans with representatives less likely to have their claims denied, they are more likely to be granted the benefits that they deserve. Moreover, in my experiences, veterans who have a representative are far less likely to miss important deadlines or other procedural hurdles because they have an experienced person to assist them in making sure that everything remains in order.
As a blog run by people who represent veterans, you might expect us to be somewhat biased on this point. But the numbers don’t lie: Veterans who face the VA without an experienced advocate by their side tend to fare the worst. Further, based on my observations, veterans without a representative also tend to face the longest delays because they don’t have someone in their corner to poke and prod the VA into doing its job.
In an ideal world, the VA claims process would be much simpler and anyone would be able to handle the process on their own. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world. Because every veteran deserves the best possible shot at winning their benefits from the VA, I encourage everyone to seek out a representative to help them in pursuing their VA benefits.