The Department of Veteran Affairs provides critical benefits to the men and women who have served our country. However, obtaining unemployability benefits is often an exercise in frustration. Despite its straightforward mission, the VA operates an opaque bureaucracy that can make simply filing a claim—let alone appealing one—seem difficult.
Since simply filing a claim can prove challenging, many Veterans do whatever it takes to ensure they and their loved ones receive the support their sacrifices demand. For many former servicemen and women, this means consulting an attorney to review their paperwork and prevent the department from blocking deserved benefits.
In recent years, though, there has been an increase in unaccredited, unlicensed “coaching” agencies that promise Veterans the world, yet often fail to live up to expectations.
TDIU as a Lifeline for Veterans
Any Veteran whose military service prevents them from obtaining a job, or holding stable employment, could be entitled to Total Disability Individual Unemployability benefits, often abbreviated to TDIU.
If and when the Department of Veteran Affairs approves a TDIU claim, beneficiaries could receive up to $3,621.95 per month from the VA as of 2023. (This number increases every year due to the rising cost of living.) In some cases, they could also receive additional compensation for dependent children and parents.
However, qualifying for TDIU is not always easy. Veterans must typically meet the following requirements to be considered:
- The Veteran must have one or more qualifying physical disability or mental health conditions.
- The Veteran must be able to establish a service connection to their qualifying condition.
- The ratings for these qualifying conditions must exceed a certain threshold.
- The Veteran must be able to prove that they are “unemployable” as a result of such service-related connections.
Since qualifying for TDIU can involve mountains of paperwork and repeated requests for medical evidence, many Veterans seek professional assistance before filing a TDIU claim.
The Risks of Working With VA Claims Coaches or Consultants
The Department of Veteran Affairs recognizes that obtaining benefits is not always easy. To ensure that former servicepeople receive competent assistance, the VA maintains a comprehensive register of accredited professionals who know how to navigate the department’s bureaucracy and charge fair and reasonable rates. This register includes the following:
- Department of Veteran Affairs-accredited attorneys
- VA claims agents
- Veterans Service Officer (VSO) representatives
Since the Department of Veteran Affairs only accredits attorneys and claims agents who comply with exacting criteria, applicants usually know what to expect in terms of fee schedules and results.
However, in recent years, a number of unaccredited VA “coaches” and VA “consultants” have begun advertising their services. These coaches and consultants are rarely, if ever, authorized to work with Veterans. Most have no legal background and little, if any, formal understanding of the Department of Veteran Affairs’ processes.
Instead, they claim that—because they are not accredited professionals—they are exempt from the Department of Veteran Affairs’ standards. Many such agencies say this is a strength and that VA claims coaching can resolve claims faster than working with an attorney.
Unfortunately, most coaches and consultants use the opportunity to rip off Veterans’ benefits, even when a claim is rejected or an appeal fails.
The Benefits of Hiring an Accredited VA Attorney for Your Unemployability Claim
While so-called coaches and consultants often lack any real legal experience, Department of Veteran Affairs-accredited attorneys are licensed professionals who must abide by a strict code of conduct. A VA-accredited attorney is required to do the following when working on unemployability claims:
- Be honest and reasonable
- Act only in the Veteran claimant’s best interests
- Resolve claims quickly and efficiently
Unlike unaccredited agencies, attorneys who are authorized to work with the Department of Veteran Affairs cannot demand repayment of excessive costs, nor can they charge Veterans unreasonable fees for routine representation.
Furthermore, Veterans’ benefits lawyers often have years of experience handling complex claims in different cities and states. They know what to expect and how to get their clients results without bending the law or jeopardizing a claim.