That depends! (Don’t you love the lawyery answer?)
Do I need to hire a lawyer?
A lot of veterans call me and say they want to hire me to handle their VA claim. I say, “Wonderful! But have you discussed your claim with a Veterans Service Officer?” VSOs are paid by the county and will help you with the claim for free! I actually can’t accept a fee for helping you with your claim. (And neither can any other lawyer). Always use a VSO or a local service organization to file your claim. It is free, they know what they are doing, and they don’t work for the VA.
When should I hire a lawyer?
You may want to hire a lawyer if your claim is denied by the VA in whole or in part. You have one year from the denial decision to appeal. Please do not wait until the last minute! Act quickly and speak with your VSO about the appeal and what the appeals process will look like. You may want to stick with the VSO or consider hiring a lawyer. I recommend that you, at least, consult with a lawyer who will review your case and advise on whether your appeal may win. Please make sure the lawyer is accredited by the VA!
How much will it cost?
I, like most lawyers, will represent you during VA disability appeal (Board of Veteran Appeals and Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims) for a contingency fee. That means no money down and the lawyer gets paid if you get paid. Typically a lawyer will get %20 of any back pay if they win on appeal. It is the standard fee that the VA recognizes as reasonable. The VA pays the lawyer directly from the back pay amount. Lawyers may charge more but most keep it at %20. VSOs or other service organizations (VFW, American Legion, DAV) may be able to continue to help with your appeal and will not accept a fee.
Not every claimant needs to hire an attorney. I recommend that you speak with the VSO about the appeal and I also suggest that you use an attorney’s free consultation.
Here comes the shameless plug… It just so happens that I represent fellow veterans before the VA so please feel free to reach out and discuss your appeal.