Monday, April 5, 2010

Veterans Face Two-Front War: A Response from the DVA

You would have to read the hundreds of emails I get weekly from veterans pleading for help, saying their VSO’s will not return their phone calls. The DAV, as I understand it have reduced their attorney staff that takes cases to the Court of veteran Appeals. Had a veteran who DAV refused to pursue their case to the Court, found him an attorney, won a procedural decision from the court, and is now back at the VBA awaiting a decision. Attorney Bob Walsh is a Godsend to veterans, as is Attorney Joe Moore, and several others. They provide much pro bono help, where no help existed before… what do you do? who do you turn to? after VSO has had your claim for years, then drops you?

Far too many veterans just give up… don’t give up.. at the end of your rope? Get an attorney.

Remember? , 16,112 of the Vietnam Veterans with claims for Parkinson’s are deceased, who should have won their case years ago, if the VSO’s had fought for it, as

Hard as a number of veteran advocates, like me, fought for it. That doesn’t include the many thousands who never filed a claim because a VSO said not to, as it wasn’t covered.

There are a lot of good Vet service officer, but far too many bad ones, and most are overwhelmed just passing the papers back & forth between denial, appeal, denial, appeal and requesting a burial flag, before case is ever decided.


I had not seen the article. Thanks for sending it to me.

I was informed recently that the local DAV service officer stood up in a public veterans meeting here in Battle Creek, Michigan and lied to all present.

He said that if you hire an attorney to work on your VA benefits claim and win you will pay 1/3 of the back pay and then 1/3 of the benefits for life.

I charge 20% of the back pay. I do not get paid when I help veterans with new claims. I had over $ 250,000.00 recovered for veterans last year that was pro bono, without fees. Some attorneys charge 33% of the back pay. No attorney can charge a veteran for life.

That lie I suggest is the official “big lie” coming from DAV. I do not think our local service officer could come up with such foolishness on his own.

The DAV response may be accurately stating how much their claimants recovered last year. As to how many cases the DAV takes up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the answer is very few. To my knowledge no service organization staffed up with attorneys to assist their members after the creation of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. There is no “G.M. Legal Services Plan” type of free legal assistance available to the membership of the national service organizations. There are only two or three thousand attorneys in the U.S. that assist veterans with benefits claims. The VA has a large number of expert attorneys in Washington to represent them on each case at the CAVC and Federal Circuit.

A few Pro Bono attorneys will not clean up the 1 million claims backlog the VA has created with the able assistance of the DAV and the other service organizations. The system is broken, and veterans and their families suffer every day because of it.

The DAV approach of “pissing on a forest fire” has not been effective for the past 60 years. It is not effective now, and will not work in the future. But they press on.

If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.

The major changes in veterans benefits in the past 50 years have been through grass roots efforts or by small organizations. Agent Orange was tackled by the Vietnam Veterans of America. A workable G. I. Bill was recently rammed through by the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans Association. The ban on concurrent receipt was a grass roots effort by thousands of disabled military retirees with little support from the large organizations. Veterans for Common Sense had the courage to sue the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs over the benefits claims processing debacle.

The recent improvements in Agent Orange benefits and Gulf War Illness was the work of a handful of men and women. Less than a hundred. Many of them are seriously ill with the diseases they have been seeking benefits for. They were able to effectuate change in the system. But for 60 years the national service organizations have been unwilling or unable to modernize and improve the system.

I do not believe in bringing a pen knife to a gun fight. I do not think veterans should have to hire an attorney to get their benefits. But since they have had little or no help from the National Service Organizations my position is that 80% of 100% is far better than 100% of nothing, and easier to spend.

These are my personal views and are not the views of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law or Project Salute.

Veterans Face Two-Front War: A Response from the DVA

Veterans Face Two-Front War: A Response from the DVA
April 3, 2010 by Michael Leon · 39 Comments

Bob Walsh, Attorney Fighting for Veterans
Last month, Veterans Today ran a piece on the effort of veterans service organizations impeding veterans from getting legal assistance against the U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs, an agency ranging from hostile to indifferent to the plight of veterans in a rigged and crooked bureaucratic system.

The fact is there is no unified veterans lobby fighting on behalf of veterans to mitigate a hostile bureaucracy.

Veterans service organizations have been captured by the VA and partisan interests. Groups like Veterans for Common Sense and attorneys like Robert Walsh wage a lonely war on behalf of their clients against the VA, but also against the national veteran service organizations that are part of the problem.

Emblematic is the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) that I say seeks an effective roll-back of legal assistance for veterans after years of working against the right of veterans to obtain legal counsel to fight the VA.

Joseph A. Violante, National Legislative Director of the Disabled American Veterans disagrees with the above sentiment. Mr. Violante’s views on the matter are reprinted below, and I will let them stand without further comment so that the group’s view are heard here. Intelligent disagreement is critical, as is dialogue with the enemy.

By Joseph A. Violante

The column, ‘Attorneys Fight for Veterans Against VA and VSOs’ contains some inaccuracies, which I would like to address.

You claim that the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is targeting the use of attorneys by veterans. This is absolutely false. While we have a resolution calling for repeal of the law that allows attorneys to charge veterans a fee for services render on claims, DAV is not actively pursuing that goal. DAV does not oppose attorneys assisting veterans with their claims; we are opposed to veterans paying forthose services with their earned disability compensation. It is our firm belief that veterans have already paid for their earned benefits. For your information, DAV has reached out to and been contacted by many law firms and individual attorneys who are helping active duty service members and veterans with claims assistance on a pro bono basis. DAV works closely with these attorneys in identifying active duty service members and veterans who need assistance before Physical Evaluation Boards (PEBs) and the U.S. Courts of Appeal for Veterans’ Claims and Federal Circuit.

The reference to Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) as the ‘veritable enemy’ couldn’t be further from the truth. Last year alone, DAV National Service Officers were responsible for our clients receiving $4.3 billion in new and retroactive benefits. DAV Transition Service Officers are on military installations providing free TAP and DTAP counseling, as well as assisting with claims work and reviewing files. Our Mobile Service Offices, with state-of-the-art electronic equipment, go out to inner cities and rural areas to provide claims representation to veterans who cannot get to regional offices in person. DAV assists any veteran, his or her dependents and survivors free of charge. Our assistance doesn’t stop there. DAV volunteers help veterans in the hospital, drive veterans to and from their VA medical appointments and assist veterans in their communities with services that include cutting lawns or grocery shopping to name but two. These statistics are hardly the work of an enemy.

Again, the reference to VSOs, and specifically DAV, as ‘part of the problem in denying and delaying veterans [sic] disability claims’ is false. You provide no facts to back up this fallacious allegation. First, I believe the benefits we obtain annually for our clients prove you are mistaken. Second, there is no reason for us to delay a veteran’s benefit claim. Unlike an attorney, our representatives get no fee based on the retroactive payment our client receives. Further, we don’t have the ability or any reason to ‘deny’ our own client’s claim. Finally, DAV and many VSOs and Military Service Organizations have been recently working on a comprehensive plan to improve the VA claims process and speed up decisions, outlined in our National Commander’s recent testimony and other testimony provided over the past two years by national legislative staff.

It is interesting that the link embedded in your article, ‘the Attorneys for Veterans right [sic],’ links to a blog that claims it is ‘independent,’ yet it is littered with ads from attorneys looking for business. The page you link to is from 2007, three years ago.

To support the allegations in the article, ‘Attorneys Fight for Veterans Against VA & VSOs,’ you print a letter from a Mr. Priessman. He starts by claiming: ‘Recently, the DAV, after testimony by its Commander, Roberto Barrera, sought to overturn legislation [Public Law 109-461].’ I have no idea where he got that information, because it is totally unfounded. I would direct your readers and Mr. Priessman to National Commander Barrera’s full written statement (, DAV Talking Points (issues provided to our members to raise at their meetings with elected officials) ( or a video of Commander Barrera’s oral remarks and answers to questions ( (part 1) and 2)). Nowhere is there any reference to repealing P.L. 109-461, which allows attorney to charge veterans for services. Nowhere is there any mention of attorneys except for DAV’s work with law firms, which provide pro bono services before PEBs and the federal courts. Nor is it clear where he believes we have portrayed ‘attorneys as complete scoundrels’ and ‘veterans as complete dolts.’ DAV employs several attorneys, myself included. DAV’s objection is about attorneys receiving a veteran’s disability compensation as their fee.

There are some veterans or other claimants who believe that they will get better results by using an attorney, but this is simply not borne out by the facts. One need only look at the annual statistics from the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. Annually, attorneys are below the average for allowances. Last year, the average for allowances at the Board was 24 percent. The average allowance rate for attorneys was 22.7 percent. The only group lower than attorneys were unrepresented veterans. Not only did all VSOs come in higher than attorneys, but so did ‘agents’ and ‘other representatives.’ While attorneys do have a higher remand rate and hence a lower denial rate than the averages, there is no way to identify what percent of the remanded cases were for procedural due process reasons and failed to put any money in the veteran’s pocket.


The only comment on this I have is the DAV VSO had their Power of Attorney revoked by me when their VSO insisted I drop my cardiac claims from Dec 2002 in May 2007 and start a new claim for hypertension a 10% disability which would have cost me the effective date and thousands of dollars in back pay for the CAD and hypertension I was successfully rated for after the BVA appeal which was handled by a pro bono lawyer from NOVA I would have been happy to pay the lawyer the attorney fees they should have been entitled to as the VA does NOW allow the lawyers to collect 20% of back pay on granted claims, since the case was taken pro bono the lawyer declined my offer to pay, "ethics" ruled the day. Something the DAV has forgotten about over the years.......I am now SMC S thanks to a lawyer not the DAV

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