What is a VA Accredited Claims Agent?
Per the law, a VA Accredited Claims Agent is one of three categories of individuals legally recognized by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to help a veteran file a claim and represent a veteran in an appeal before the BVA or Board of Veterans Appeals.
The VA has stringent rules and clear rules on who can file a claim for a veteran or surviving spouse of a veteran.
A common myth is that anyone can help a veteran with a claim. The law says anyone can help a veteran once with a claim.
This exception to the rule is in place so a family member or a friend can help a loved one or friend file a claim and not be in violation of the law.
The VA Office of General Counsel maintains a list of VA-recognized organizations and VA-accredited individuals that are authorized to assist in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of VA benefit claims at Government VA Site.
Title 38 of the United States Code section 5901, here is what the law states:
38 USC § 5901
“No individual may act as an agent or attorney in the preparation, presentation, or prosecution of any claim under laws administered by the Secretary unless such individual has been recognized for such purposes by the Secretary.”
The three categories of individuals that the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs recognize to help a veteran with a claim?
The VA recognizes these three categories of individuals.
- Veterans Services Officers
- Accredited Attorneys
- Accredited Claims Agents
38 USC § 59, Sections 5901-5904
38 CFR § 14.629
The VA went on to clarify USC code 5901, under VA Fast Letter 06-29;
“Representation before VA consists of actions associated with the preparation, presentation, or prosecution of a claim for a VA claimant……Among other things, the representation may include counseling on veterans benefits, gathering information necessary to file a claim for benefits, preparing claim forms…”
Note that Dictionary.com defines counseling as:
- give advice to (someone).
Therefore only an accredited agent, accredited attorney, or VSO can advise an individual on how to file a claim.
- Recommend (a course of action).
Therefore providing advice on how to proceed would be in violation of the law.
Further note, the VA Fast Letter goes on to say….
Gathering information necessary to file a claim for benefits:
The simple act of picking up needed documents to file a claim violates the law. This includes taking possession of discharge papers, doctor reports, or marriage certificates, which would be a violation the law.
Preparing claim forms:
This is an obvious violation based on USC code § 5901.
So what can a non-accredited individual who is not recognized by the VA do to help a veteran?
Only one thing! Provide general education on VA benefits; this would not be a violation.
Here is an example or analogy. Anyone can provide education on the importance of a “Living Trust,” but only an attorney can make a specific recommendation that you need a trust or any legal document.
And only a “Legal Document Preparer” or an “Attorney” can prepare the actual trust document and other legal documents too.
Examples of types of organizations that are in violation of the USC code 5901.
ALTCS Planners: There are no specific rules in Arizona as to who can help with Medicaid Planning or ALTCS Planning.
Some attorneys would like you to believe that the attorney is the only profession that can legally do this work. But this is not true; virtually anyone can put themselves out as an ALTCS Planner or ALTCS Expert.
ALTCS qualification requirements require you to apply for any VA benefits you may be eligible for at the time of filling the ALTCS application. So these same organizations will also file the VA claim too. This act violates the rules under USC code § 5901
I often ask why would you pay someone to help with your ALTCS application that is not a VA Accredited Claims Agent to help you with a claim if you are a Veteran.
These people are knowingly breaking the law! How do you trust them to complete the ALTCS claim properly? Other major culprits are Hospice Companies, Home Care Agencies, and Home Health Care Agencies.
There are several in Arizona like the ALTCS Application assistance companies think it is ok for them to file VA claims when it is not! I often tell these companies and those that work for them that they should become accredited by the VA. and do this legally.
Steve Dabbs is a VA Accredited Claims Agent and a Vietnam Veteran who served aboard the USS Racine LST 1191.
Steve Dabbs has helped 1000s of Veterans, Spouses, and Surviving Spouses apply for and be approved for VA benefits.
Steve Dabbs can help you to get qualified for VA Benefits through his Professional Value-Added Services that will save your Money and Time.
He began educating veterans on Veterans Pension with Aid and Attendance benefits in 2012 after entering the financial services industry in 1978. In June 2011, he became a VA-accredited claims agent. As a result, he is able to represent veterans before the Department of Veterans Affairs in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of VA claims, as well as before the “Board of Veterans Appeals”.
So how do you know if the person you are working with is recognized by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs?
Type in a search engine, VA Accredited Claims Agent. Click on the link:
There you can see all three categories of persons:
Attorney, Claims Agent, and VSO representative
Type the person’s name and see if they are listed on VA.gov.
If you go to the VA.gov site you will see Steve Dabbs is a VA accredited claims agent.
A common myth about VA Pension Benefits is that Anyone can help a Veteran with a Veterans Pension Claim
I often learn about unauthorized people – usually annuity and insurance agents — helping veterans with claims. These agents say that they are affiliated with a non-profit organization, but all they really want to do is sell an annuity. In many states, this is a violation of insurance laws because it is considered a pretext sales approach.
Since it is against the law it also can cause the person unnecessary legal issues too.
Selling annuities is not necessarily a bad thing under the right circumstances. Medicaid-compliant income annuities can be a wise choice — turning an asset into a flow of income to help pay for care – that lets someone qualify for VA or Medicaid benefits. But the fact that sales agents hide behind the facade of a non-profit organization is questionable.
These people are often breaking the law. Read more.
Fact: The law says that anyone can help veteran with one claim. Title 38 CFR § 14.630 (a) states that any person may be authorized to prepare, present, and prosecute one claim. This allows a family member or friend to help a veteran with a claim.
This is clarified under Title 38 U.S.C. § 5901:
“Except as provided by section 500 of title 5, no individual may act as an agent or attorney in the preparation, presentation, or prosecution of any claim under laws administered by the Secretary unless such individual has been recognized for such purposes by the Secretary.” These are the people recognized by the Secretary.
- VA Accredited Attorneys
- VA Accredited Claims Agents
- Veteran Service Officers
The VA added to the explanation in their Fast Letter 06-26: “Representation before VA consists of actions associated with the preparation, presentation, or prosecution of claim for a VA claimant … Among other things, representation may include counseling on veterans benefits, gathering information necessary to file a claim for benefits, preparing claim forms …”
This is violated by many well-meaning advisors, particularly those who are counseling on VA benefits and gathering information. Advisors cross the line as soon as they go from providing general education on VA benefits to answering specific questions, such as whether or not a veteran will qualify based on their current medical needs, wartime military service or if they have too many assets. This is a direct violation of the intent and spirit of the law.
So, as a health care professional, home health provider, assisted living community director or senior placement agent, when you make a referral, be sure that the person that you suggest is recognized by the VA as a VA Accredited Attorney, Accredited Claims Agent or Veteran Service Officer.
Feel free to contact Steve Dabbs, CMP™, VA Accredited Claims Agent if you have questions about VA Pension with Aid and Attendance benefits.
VA Accredited Claims Agent Fees
The VA is very clear here no one can charge to prepare claims paperwork.
That does not prohibit a VA Claims Agent from charging for other services like pre-claim consultation and consultation on various other Governmental Benefits like Medicaid or ALTCS in Arizona.
Consultation ranges from Asset Protection Planning, Estate Planning, Medicaid Planning, or ALTCS Planning.
Both a VA Accredited Claims agent and an accredited attorney can charge a Veteran if their claim is denied.
Also read: VA aid and Attendance Asset Limits
How to become a VA Accredited Claims Agent?
To become an accredited claims agent, you must apply to the VA and pass a test on Title 38 U.S.C Code and the Title 38 CFR.
The reason the exam is difficult, and most do not pass is because that uses all the information and rules contained in both Title 38 U.S.C Code and Title 38 CFR and condense it down to only 25 questions.
Now I know what you are thinking only 25 questions. How hard can that be?
Because Veteran’s Benefits include, Educational, Home Loans, Medical, and Long Term Care benefits which the VA Accredited Claims Agent exam may include a question on all areas.
You must get 75% or more on the exam. This means that you can only miss 6 questions to pass.
To apply use: Initial Accreditation Application Form: VA Form 21a.
VA Accredited Claims Agent Training
There is no formal training available to become a VA Accredited Claims Agent.
However as previously mentioned in order to become a VA Claims Agent you must pass the VA accreditation exam based on Title 38 U.S.C. Code and Regulations.
So without taking the time to study the law and regulations that surround the law a person would not pass the exam.
Once accredited a VA claims agent must obtain 3 hours of continuing education on VA benefits every 2 years.
This is different for an attorney to become accredited.
An attorney only needs to submit the application and be in good standing with their state bar to be approved.
And no specific knowledge of the law or regulations of Title 38 is required.
So I often find that a VA Accredited Claims Agent is more familiar with the law and regulations than an accredited attorney.
The Veteran Service Officer is connected with a recognized Veteran Service Organization, these are:
The following is a listing of national, regional, or local organizations recognized by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims under laws administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- African American PTSD Association American
- Legion American
- Red Cross AM
- American Ex-Prisoners of War, Inc.
- American GI Forum
- National Veterans Outreach Program Armed Forces Services Corporation Army and Navy Union,
- USA Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America
- Blinded Veterans Association
- Catholic War Veterans of the U.S.A.
- Disabled American Veterans Fleet Reserve Association
- Gold Star Wives of America, Inc.
- Italian American War Veterans of the United States, Inc.
- Jewish War Veterans of the United States Legion of Valor of the United States of America, Inc.
- Marine Corps League
- Military Officers Association of America (MOAA)
- National Amputation Foundation, Inc.
- National Association of County Veterans Service Officers, Inc,
- National Association for Black Veterans, Inc.
- National Veterans Legal Services Program
- National Veterans Organization of America
- Navy Mutual Aid Association Paralyzed Veterans of America, Inc.
- Polish Legion of American Veterans,
- S.A. Swords to Plowshares,
- Veterans Rights Organization, Inc.
- The Retired Enlisted Association
- The Veterans Assistance Foundation, Inc.
- The Veterans of the Vietnam War, Inc.
- The Veterans Coalition United
- Spanish War Veterans of the United States
- United Spinal Association, Inc.
- Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
- Veterans of World War I of the U.S.A., Inc.
- Vietnam Era Veterans Association
- Vietnam Veterans of America West Virginia
- Department of Veterans Assistance Wounded Warrior Project
Steve Dabbs has been a VA Accredited Claims agent since June 2011. He helped many of Veterans, Spouses, and Surviving Spouses for VA benefits.
He specializes in long-term care benefits which include both Private Insurance Plans and Governmental benefits.
Steve Dabbs is a Certified Medicaid Planner™, a VA Accredited Claims, accredited by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, and an Accredited Investment Fiduciary®. He helps people to apply and qualify for ALTCS Arizona Long-Term Care and VA Aid and Attendance Benefits.
Applying for ALTCS or VA Aid and Attendance benefits can be complicated, but Steve Dabbs can save your Time and Money by reducing delays and claims denials.
He is a Fiduciary, so as a Fiduciary, he must do what is in the best interest of his Clients.