Many of you know I’m in law school and looking forward to using my degree and experience to help veterans. A fellow compatriot of mine, David Huffman of West Virginia, has been working tirelessly for veterans for decades and is advocating letting legal counsel into the Veterans Administration claims process.
If you have been through the VA system, you know that you are not entitled to legal counsel until your claim is rejected. It seems crazy that citizens charged with serious crimes have greater legal access than our veterans. Yes, there are great veteran service organizations (VSOs) out there, like the DAV, but they don’t have the resources to help everyone.
I’m in favor of the VA allowing for veterans to retain legal counsel earlier in the process. It isn’t because I’m becoming a lawyer, but because I know how hard it is to get through the system without effective counsel and resources.
What are your thoughts?
From Insurance Journal:
David Huffman has helped thousands of military veterans seeking disability benefits navigate the complex, often slow and at times frustrating claims process. The Wood County, West Virginia lawyer can relate: he was a 19-year-old Marine in Vietnam when a booby trap blinded him.
As if getting through college and law school without sight weren’t challenges enough, Huffman has begun a new quest: convincing the U.S. government to change the way it allows lawyers to handle veteran disability claims.
Huffman is targeting the policy for claims, revised in 2007, that says a veteran can hire a lawyer for a fee only after a claim has been rejected. He supports what he hopes becomes a national movement, Veterans for Full Representation, which is seeking nonprofit status from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and recently launched a website. Ultimately, he hopes officials will allow fee-charging lawyers earlier in the process.
“I want the (Disabled American Veterans), the VFW or any of them to say, ‘Why the heck would you want to pay an attorney 20 percent of your back check, when we can do it for free?’ Maybe that will help them do better, to give the veteran a choice,” Huffman said. “Veterans, in the long run, are better off having free choice and full representative from either an attorney or a claims representative.”