An individual generally must first be accredited by Veterans Affairs (VA) to assist a claimant in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of a claim for VA benefits-even without charge. VA accredits three types of individuals for this purpose:
- Representatives of VA-recognized Veterans service organizations
- Independent claims agents
- Private Attorneys
A searchable list of accredited representatives, agents, and attorneys is available at the VA Office of the General Counsel website.
VA accreditation, which is for the sole and limited purpose of preparing, presenting, and prosecuting claims before VA, is necessary to ensure that claimants for VA benefits have responsible, qualified representation. VA regulations allow a one-time exception to this general rule, which allows VA to authorize a person to prepare, present, and prosecute one claim without accreditation. The assistance must be without cost to the claimant, is subject to the laws governing representation, and may not be used to evade the accreditation requirements. Preparation and presentation of a VA claim includes, among other things, gathering the information necessary to file a claim for benefits, completing claim applications, submitting claim information to VA, and communicating with VA on behalf of a claimant.
A VA-accredited attorney or claims agent, who is also a financial planner, may assist a claimant with a claim for Aid and Attendance. However, financial planners may not use their VA accreditation for the purpose of promoting or selling financial products. If VA determines that an accredited attorney or agent is using VA accreditation for an improper purpose, VA may suspend or cancel the individual’s accreditation.