Attorneys Timothy L. Takacs, CELA and Barbara Boone McGinnis have both received accreditation by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to prepare, present and prosecute claims for veterans before the VA.
Accreditation refers to the authority granted by the VA to those attorneys who meet the standards established by the VA. VA's stated purpose in requiring attorney accreditation is to ensure that claimants for VA benefits receive "qualified assistance in preparing and presenting their claims."
To receive accreditation, federal law requires an attorney to pass a written examination and to complete continuing legal education covering, at a minimum, the following topics: VA representation, disability compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation and pension benefits, claim procedures, eligibility requirements and appeal rights. An attorney must also establish that he or she is of good character and reputation.
The privilege of accreditation carries with it the responsibility to maintain specified standards of conduct and comply with the laws that govern VA representations, as set forth in the United States Code and the Code of Federal Regulations.
According to federal law, attorneys who do not receive VA accreditation are prohibited from assisting claimants in the preparation, presentation and prosecution of VA claims, regardless of whether or not the attorney charges legal fees for those services. Unaccredited attorneys may only provide limited services to veterans, such as providing general information about VA benefits, and may not assist veterans in the preparation, presentation and prosecution of their claims.
The VA also regulates the fees that may be charged by accredited attorneys. In general, an attorney cannot charge a VA claimant for assistance in filing an eligibility verification report (EVR); in order to charge legal fees for representation before VA, the agency must have issued an adverse decision on a VA claim for benefits, and the claimant must have filed a notice of disagreement (NOD), or an appeal, with respect to that adverse decision.
The VA accreditation system is designed to ensure that lawyers who represent VA claimants have a thorough understanding of the VA health and benefit systems, so that they may provide quality assistance in the preparation, presentation and prosecution of those claims.
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