Will the VA Take My Attorney Fees Directly Out of My Disability Back Pay?

You’ve been looking around online for help with your VA disability claim, and so far you’ve seen a number of lawyers offering to help you with no money up front. 

When and How the VA Pays Disability Lawyer Fees

The VA can pay your attorney out of the benefits you have won, if you have have approved contract. This requires the veteran and attorney to enter into a fee agreement allowing the VA to pay legal fees directly to the attorney when (and if) the case is won. The VA will first subtract the percentage of past-due benefits in the fee agreement and send it to the attorney, then the VA will send the veteran the rest of the lump sum.

The VA will pay for legal fees out of a veteran’s back payments under certain conditions, including:

  • Favorable outcome. Legal fees will only be paid through the VA if the outcome is favorable to the veteran. If the claim is denied, the VA will not transfer any amount for payment of attorney fees.
     
  • Reasonable percentage. The VA will pay a portion of the veteran’s benefits to an attorney only if the percentage is less than 20 percent of the total amount of past-due benefits. Past-due benefits are a one-time, lump sum award granted to the veteran for the length of time the claim was originally denied to the date that benefits are granted by appeal.
     
  • Total benefit amount. Attorney fees are calculated using the total amount of a veteran’s past-due benefits. This means that even if a portion of awarded benefits is earmarked for other parties (such as the veteran’s dependents), the fee will be calculated on the entire amount.

Veterans should be aware that the VA will charge its own fee before paying fees to an attorney. The charge is limited to five percent of the amount of the fee required to be paid to the attorney or $100, whichever is less. This is service charge is paid by the attorney not the veteran.

Many of the rules surrounding attorney fees and awards can be confusing, tempting many veterans to “go it alone” rather than lose too much of their benefits to legal fees.  Reports from the Board of Veterans Appeals show that veterans represented by attorneys are more successful than those represented by most service organizations.

At Cuddigan Law, we are proud to serve veterans in disability compensation cases, without charging upfront fees. To find out how we can help, send us an email at [email protected] or call (402)933-5405 today to describe the problems you have been having.

 

Sean D. Cuddigan
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska