What is the VA ABA Program ??
Friday, October 3, 2014
Posted by: Suzanne Gerstner
The ABA program or American Bar Association Pilot Program is a program where upon lawyers may assist you with Veteran's Benefit claims. Please note that disagreements and appeals actions beyond initial claims filings may come at a charge from these attorneys (re sample letter below). If you recently submitted a claim to the VA without declaration of a representative, you may receive an ABA letter on a random trial selection.
The intention of this letter is to advise you that you do not have a VSO (Veterans Service Officer) assigned to your case (DAV, VFW, County service officers) and that they, the ABA, are available to help.
At this time this is a pilot or trial program. Please also note that VSO's do not charge to represent you in the appeals process. The ABA receives no special or preferential treatment by the VA in the Claims process. The choice of representation is an individual one.
The purpose of this posting is to advise you of potential mailings you may receive from the VA.
The letter may look like this:
Assistance Available to Help with your Claim:
Our records indicate that you currently have a claim pending with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and do not have a representative assisting you with your claim. Did you know there are free resources available to help you develop your claim for VA disability benefits? You can appoint a VA-recognized Veterans Service Organization (VSO) that will help you for free throughout the entire claims process. Visit: http://www.ebenefits.va.gov, click on “Feature List”, and then “Find or View Your Representative for VA Claims” to easily find and select a representative. You can also appoint a VA-accredited claims agent or attorney, who by law may not charge fees for their assistance in preparing and submitting your claim, but may charge a fee if you agree to it after an initial VA decision and the filing of a notice of disagreement on your claim.
VA has recently partnered with the American Bar Association (ABA) which may provide you with a pro bono attorney who is willing to assist with your VA claim as part of the new ABA Veterans’ Claims Assistance Network (VCAN). Through this initiative, you can receive free legal assistance from an attorney on your compensation claim at least until VA issues an initial claims decision. After VA’s initial decision, you and your attorney may discuss options for continuing the representation. If you choose to appeal, you and your attorney may agree to continue the representation for free or you may agree to pay the attorney a fee. If you are interested in this service, please contact the ABA within 15 days of the date on this letter by calling 312-994-1107, or completing the ABA online intake form at www.abavcan.org, with the following code to confirm receipt of this letter: ABA mailing code. Please be prepared to email or fax the enclosed disclosure forms to the ABA to authorize access to your claims file. If you do not contact ABA within 15 days, you will not be eligible for this initiative but may still contact a VSO for representation at any time. If you choose a VSO to represent you, please be sure to inform them that you received this letter and provide the code listed above so VA can complete the process of your claim under this initiative. Please note that you may only select one representative (i.e., an attorney or VSO, but not both) at a time to assist with your claim.
Thank you for your service.
Enclosures: VCAN Acknowledgement Letter
VA Form 21-0845
VA Form 10-5345