The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) accredits three types of representatives—Veterans Service Organization (VSO) representatives, attorneys, and agents—to help ensure that claimants have access to responsible and qualified representation on their VA benefits claims. VA-accredited representatives must have good moral character and be capable of providing competent representation, and VA’s Office of General Counsel is responsible for making those determinations through its accreditation process. The accreditation process differs depending of which type of accreditation is being sought. An accredited VSO representative is someone who has been recommended for accreditation by a VSO that is recognized by VA to assist on VA benefit claims.
The VSO has certified to VA that the representative possesses good character and is fit to represent Veterans and their families as an employee or member of their organization. An attorney is someone who is a member in good standing of at least one State bar. When an attorney applies for VA accreditation, VA typically presumes that the attorney possesses the good character and fitness necessary to represent Veterans and their family members based on the attorney’s state license to practice law. An accredited claims agent is someone who is not an attorney but who has undergone a character review by OGC and has passed a written examination about VA law and procedures.
Beware unaccredited individuals who prepare, present, or prosecute VA benefit claims, or hold themselves out as being authorized to do so, are in violation of Federal 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 https://www.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp.
For more information on VA accreditation, please visit https://www.va.gov/ogc/accreditation.asp.
A VA-accredited representative can help you understand and apply for any VA benefits you may be entitled to including: compensation, education, Veteran readiness and employment, home loans, life insurance, pension, health care, and burial benefits. A VA-accredited representative may also help you request further review of, or appeal, an adverse VA decision regarding benefits.
Most of the representation that is provided to claimants on initial benefit claims is performed by VA-recognized VSOs and their accredited representatives. Among other things, a VSO representative can help you gather any evidence needed and submit a Fully Developed Claim on your behalf. A VSO representative can also correspond with VA about your claim on your behalf. VSOs always provide their representation on VA claims free-of-charge.
In addition to assisting Veterans and their families with VA claims, many VSOs also sponsor a range of Veteran-centric programs such as providing transportation to and from VA medical center appointments, funds and volunteers for disaster relief, and grants. VSOs also lobby Congress on behalf of issues facing Veterans and help support requests for resources needed by VA to better serve Veterans, their families, and survivors.
Typically, VA-accredited attorneys and claims agents perform most of their representation after VA has issued an initial decision on a claimant’s claim—this is when attorneys and claims agents are permitted to charge fees for their representation. At this stage of the adjudication process, an attorney or claims agent may be helpful to you in further developing the evidence in support of your claim and crafting persuasive and legal arguments on your behalf to submit to VA. In addition, an attorney or claims agent can assist you in navigating the VA appeals process.
It is important to know that VA-recognized VSOs, and their representatives, always provide their services on benefit claims free-of-charge. Unlike VSOs, VA-accredited attorneys and agents may charge you a fee for their representation in appealing or requesting additional review of an adverse VA decision. Only VA-accredited attorneys and claims agents may charge you fees for assisting in a claim for VA benefits, and only after VA has issued an initial decision on the claim and they have complied with the power-of-attorney and the fee agreement requirements.
For information on what to do if you believe you were charged an unreasonable fee by a claims agent or attorney, see the fact sheet on How to Challenge a Fee.
VA’s 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 https://www.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp.
You can also find a representative of a recognized VSO, attorney, or claims agent by state/territory, by zip code, or by the VSO's name online using eBenefits.
To find a VSO office located in your local regional benefit office, use our directory of VA-recognized VSOs that are co-located with VA.
You may appoint a VA-recognized VSO to represent you or manage your current representative online using eBenefits.
It is recommended that you first speak to the VSO before you submit your online request.
You may also appoint a VA-recognized VSO by completing VA Form 21-22, Appointment of Veterans Service Organization as Claimant's Representative. You may appoint an attorney, claims agent, or a specific, individual VSO representative to represent you by completing VA Form 21-22a, Appointment of Individual as Claimant’s Representative. You should mail the completed form to:
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
CLAIMS INTAKE CENTER
PO BOX 4444
JANESVILLE, WI 53547-4444
You may discharge your attorney, claims agent, or VSO representative at any time and for any reason by informing VA of your request in writing. You may also replace your representative with a new representative by filing a new VA Form 21-22, Appointment of Veterans Service Organization as Claimant's Representative or VA Form 21-22a, Appointment of Individual as Claimant’s Representative with VA.
In addition, if you believe that your VA-accredited representative acted unethically or violated the law, you may file a complaint about your representative with VA’s Office of General Counsel. For more information on filing a complaint, please review VA’s factsheet at https://www.va.gov/OGC/docs/Accred/HowtoFileaComplaint.pdf. For information on what VA’s Office of General Counsel can do, and what it cannot do, in response to a complaint regarding representation, please review VA’s factsheet at https://www.va.gov/OGC/docs/Accred/EnforcementAuthority.pdf.