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VA Attorney Fee Agreements: How Much Does a VA Disability Lawyer Cost?

Posted by Gregory M. Rada | June 8, 2021 | Firm News

Generally, there is no upfront fee for legal representation by a VA disability lawyer. Most VA disability lawyers use contingent fee arrangements. This means that instead of charging by the hour, most VA disability attorneys receive a percentage of the veteran’s past-due benefits (back pay) that is won on appeal.

So, hiring a VA disability attorney is basically like a risk-free financial investment. If the investment, which in this case is an attorney-client relationship, doesn’t bear financial fruit, the veteran loses nothing. If the investment succeeds, the investment usually pays significant dividends.

Breaking Down a Contingent Fee Agreement

VA attorney fees are regulated by the government and the VA Office of General Counsel. An attorney is permitted by regulation to charge based on a fixed fee, hourly rate, a contingency fee, or a combination of such bases, but most VA disability lawyers charge a contingency fee.

38 C.F.R. § 14.636(f) states that a fee which does “not exceed 20 percent of any past-due benefits . . . shall be presumed to be reasonable” and fees “which exceed 33 1/3 percent of any past-due benefits awarded shall be presumed to be unreasonable.” If an attorney charges 20% or less, then the VA will withhold the attorney fee from the veteran’s past-due benefits and pay the attorney directly. If an attorney charges more than 20% they must collect their fee directly from the veteran. Most VA attorneys charge 20% or 30% — attorneys that charge 20% want to make sure they are paid, but they may need to take on more cases to make a living. Here at After Service LLC, we pride ourselves on keeping our caseloads smaller so that we can work one-on-one with all our clients from beginning to end. For this reason, we usually charge a 30% contingent fee.

Professional Partnerships

Contingency fee agreements cover more than just attorneys’ fees — they also cover the ‘costs of litigation.’ VA appeals are ultimately won based on medical and vocational evidence and its oftentimes necessary to hire independent experts.

Most VA disability appeals involve the hiring of outside experts to help win the appeal, such as independent medical experts or independent vocational experts. Independent doctors often draw different conclusions compared to the VA examiners who performed the C&P (Compensation & Pension) exam. This is especially true since the VA now contracts out most C&P exams to third-party contractors such as QTC (Quality, Timeliness, Customer Service), VES (Veterans Evaluation Services), and LHI (Logistics Health Incorporated) who then contract with civilian medical professionals that might not be familiar with the types of disabilities suffered by veterans (e.g., PTSD, residuals of traumatic brain injury (TBI), etc.).

And in most claims for TDIU (total disability rating based on individual unemployability), vocational experts play a pivotal role. These professionals assess a veteran’s service-connected disabilities and give an expert opinion as to whether the veteran can secure and maintain substantially gainful employment. Because the VA does not use vocational experts, it is usually crucial to hire one during an appeal for TDIU benefits.

Legal representation here at After Service LLC costs nothing upfront. That includes a free consultation with an experienced VA disability lawyer at After Service LLC. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we start fighting for you.

FAQs

Why do disability lawyers charge contingent fees?

Contingency fee agreements give veterans the ability to hire professional legal representation without any money up front. Most disabled veterans cannot afford lawyers out of pocket. In addition, because the attorney only gets paid if the veteran wins their appeal, everyone’s interests are aligned. Put another way, we don’t earn a living unless we win your appeal.

What is an IME?

An Independent Medical Examination is an examination performed by a medical expert that is not hired by the VA. IMEs are used to provide medical evidence in support of a veteran’s appeal for VA benefits.

What is a VE?

A Vocational Expert assesses a veteran’s employment prospects and ability to maintain substantially gainful employment considering the veteran’s background and service-connected disabilities.

 

Gregory Rada is a Veterans Benefits Attorney who practices Nationwide. He graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Law, and has been practicing law for six years. Gregory Rada believes in fighting for fellow veterans. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.