- Applying for Accreditation as an Attorney or Agent NEW!
- The Pension Program and Representation
- How to File a Complaint Regarding Representation
- How to Challenge a Fee
- VA Form 21 - Application for Accreditation as Service Organization Representative
- Va Form 21a - Application for Accreditation as a Claims Agent or Attorney
These accreditation applications may be mailed to the address indicated on the form, faxed to the Office of the General Counsel (022D) at (202) 273-0197 NEW!, or attached (as a pdf file) to an e-mail sent to email@example.com.
Accreditation questions, comments, and requests for correction of information reported by the Office of the General Counsel's online accreditation search application may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Purpose of VA Accreditation:
VA accreditation is for the sole purpose of providing representation services to claimants before VA and does not imply that a representative is qualified to provide financial planning services or is otherwise endorsed by VA. VA accreditation may not be used for marketing financial products or promoting a financial services business. Despite 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.
Complaints regarding unlawful activities, misconduct, or incompetent representation by a VA-accredited individual may be emailed to email@example.com, faxed to (202) 273-0197, or mailed to the following address: Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of the General Counsel (022D), 810 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20420. Complaints may also include information regarding an accredited individual’s suspension or disbarment by any court, bar, or Federal or State agency to which such individual was previously admitted to practice. Please provide us with a detailed summary of your allegations regarding the actions of the VA-accredited individual. Please also submit a completed and signed VA Form 3288 - Request for and Consent to Release of Information from Individual's Records (either as a pdf file attached to your e-mail or as an enclosure with your mailed letter), which will authorize VA to provide complaint information to the accredited individual, as required under 38 C.F.R. § 14.633(e). Complaints regarding assistance on a claim for VA benefits provided by an individual who is not accredited by VA may also be sent to the Office of the General Counsel, in the same manner.
By law, an individual must be accredited by VA as an agent, attorney, or representative of a VA-recognized veterans service organization to assist in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of a claim for VA benefits. 38 U.S.C. §§ 5901-5902, 5904; 38 C.F.R. § 14.629. VA regulations provide a one-time only exception to this general rule, which authorizes a person to provide assistance on a particular claim, but such assistance must be without cost to the claimant and is otherwise subject to the laws governing representation. 38 C.F.R. § 14.630. An individual who is not accredited by VA is otherwise prohibited by law from assisting claimants in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims before VA.
By law, no person or organization may charge claimants a fee for assistance in preparing applications for VA benefits or presenting claims to VA. VA-accredited agents and attorneys may charge fees for assistance on a claim for VA benefits only after VA has issued a decision on a claim, a Notice of Disagreement has been filed initiating an appeal of that decision, and the agent or attorney has complied with the power-of-attorney requirements in 38 C.F.R. § 14.631 and the fee agreement requirements in 38 C.F.R. § 14.636(g). 38 U.S.C. § 5904(c)(1); 38 C.F.R. § 14.636(c).
- VA Form 21-22 - Appointment of Veterans Service Organization as Claimant's Representative
- VA Form 21-22a - Appointment of Individual As Claimant's Representative
These appointment forms must be filed with the VA office that has jurisdiction over the claim (generally a VA Regional Office or the Board of Veterans' Appeals). Do not file these forms with the Office of the General Counsel.
A copy of every fee agreement between a VA claimant and an accredited agent or attorney for purposes of representation pursuant to a properly filed VA Form 21-22a must be filed with the Office of the General Counsel within 30 days of its execution. See 38 C.F.R. § 14.636(g)(3). Fee agreements may be mailed to the Office of the General Counsel (022D), 810 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20420. For more information about naming pdf files for submission to the Office of the General Counsel see the "Fee Agreements" section of our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page. Do not send any other documents regarding the adjudication of the claim or copies of such documents to the Office of the General Counsel. Please note that “violation of or refusal to comply with the laws administered by VA or with the regulations governing practice before VA” may be a basis for cancelling VA accreditation. 38 C.F.R. § 14.633(c)(1). A copy of the fee agreement must also be filed with the VA office that has jurisdiction over the claim if the agreement calls for VA's direct payment of fees out of a past-due benefits award. See 38 C.F.R. § 14.636(h)(4).
With respect to VA's direct payment of fees, please also complete and submit form SF 3881, "ACH Vendor/Miscellaneous Payment Enrollment Form," to the fee coordinator at the regional office that has jurisdiction over the claim (see "Regional Office Contacts" below). VA needs the information that you provide on the form to process fee payments through its Financial Services Center in Austin, Texas. Complete the "Financial Institution Information" portion of the form if you want direct deposit of your fee payments. You are "enrolled" upon initial submission of the form and need not resubmit it for each case in which you represent a claimant pursuant to a direct-pay fee agreement. Submit a new SF 3881 only when you need to update your "Payee/Company Information" or "Financial Institution Information."
Regional Office Contacts:
The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has assigned at least one staff member (Agent and Attorney Fee Coordinator) at each of its Regional Offices to act as the primary point-of-contact for accredited agents and attorneys who represent claimants before the Department. Please address questions regarding specific claims to the Fee Coordinator at the Regional Office that has jurisdiction over the claim. VBA's Fee Coordinator directory is available at the following link: http://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/docs/afclist.xls
Remote Access to Electronic VA Records:
Under 38 C.F.R. §§ 1.600 through 1.603, accredited service organization representatives, claims agents, and attorneys may obtain read-only remote access to the electronic Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) claims records of the claimants they represent. To see if you are eligible for this service, please review VA's regulations and then contact a centralized VBA network Information Security Officer (ISO) at firstname.lastname@example.org. You will be referred to the appropriate regional office ISO for further processing if it appears that you meet the basic qualifications for remote access to the records.
Frequently Asked Questions:
For more information about accreditation, continuing legal education, fee agreements, and other representation matters, please review the Office of the General Counsel FAQ page at http://www.va.gov/ogc/accred_faqs.asp.
Statutes and Regulations:
Chapter 59 of title 38, United States Code, governs the representation of claimants for veterans benefits and the accreditation of representatives, agents, and attorneys. Title 38 is available in its entirety at the U.S. Government Printing Office website at: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/uscode/index.html
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 Government Printing Office website at http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&tpl=%2Findex.tpl.
Section 101 of Public Law 109-461, enacted on December 22, 2006, amended chapter 59 of title 38. Section 101 amends the law governing the recognition of individuals for the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims for benefits before VA. It requires VA to: (1) regulate the qualifications and standards of conduct applicable to accredited agents and attorneys; (2) annually collect information about accredited agents' and attorneys' standing to practice or appear before any court, bar, or Federal or State agency; (3) proscribe accreditation of individuals who have been suspended or disbarred from any such entity without reinstatement; (4) add to the list of grounds for suspension or exclusion of agents or attorneys from further practice before VA; and (5) subject veteran service organization representatives and individuals recognized for a particular claim to suspension and exclusion from further practice before VA on the same grounds as apply to agents and attorneys.
Section 101 also amends the fee provisions in chapter 59. Under these amendments, accredited agents and attorneys may charge fees for services provided after the claimant files a notice of disagreement in the case, rather than after the Board first makes a final decision in the case. The amendments also authorize VA to: (1) restrict the amount of fees agents or attorneys may charge and subject fee agreements between agents or attorneys and claimants to review by the Secretary, such review to be appealable to the Board; and (2) collect an assessment from any agent or attorney to whom VA pays fees directly from past-due benefits. Further, the amendments eliminate fee matters as grounds for criminal penalties under 38 U.S.C. § 5905.
(Link to full text of Public Law 109-461)
On May 22, 2008, VA published in the Federal Register final rules to implement section 101 of Public Law 109-461. The rules are effective 30 days from date of publication. (Link to Federal Register Notice)