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Why,When, and How to Choose to Hire a NOVA Attorney/Agent

Why Hire a NOVA Attorney/Agent

When contacting NOVA for assistance, veterans are referred to the NOVA Directory on our website, which provides a list of our sustaining members by State. To be listed in our directory, these attorneys and agents must meet certain practice and training requirements.

These members:

  • MUST be actively engaged in representing claimants pursuing VA benefits, and be accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs and/or admitted to practice at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC).
  • MUST agree to comply with minimum standards of practice in representation of a veteran, including a thorough review of the veteran’s claims folder and timely filing/responses to all VA- and CAVC-designated timeframes for filings, pleadings, and motions.
  • MUST attend one Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course every 24 months, which is specific to veterans law, and certify to NOVA the confirmation of such attendance.

Each NOVA member operates independently, so there are different procedures regarding intake, screening, and acceptance of cases. Because of their legal training, experience, and focus on veterans law, after a review of the veteran’s claim file, NOVA attorneys and agents know when a veteran’s claim(s) has merit.

As trained litigators, NOVA members assist veterans by obtaining vital military service records, military medical records, and independent medical opinions regarding veterans’ medical conditions. In cases where veterans have significant impairment, such as mental health conditions and brain injury, these attorney-provided services are essential in order to win the claim. In some instances, NOVA members’ representation of veterans results in significant changes in the case law, which improves the likelihood that future veterans will receive appropriate, prompt, and full disability compensation.

Attorneys and agents who attend NOVA’s semi-annual CLE seminars receive at least 24 hours of training each year by leading practitioners and experts who understand the latest developments in veterans law. Our members are trained to assess a veteran’s case thoroughly and argue the facts and law relevant to the veteran’s case at every stage of the VA appellate process. NOVA members also have the support and advice of NOVA and its fellow members, who are available to consult on strategies and interpretation of ever-changing VA law.

Representation by a NOVA member is not a guarantee that you will prevail. But, professional appellate advocacy by a well-trained, experienced NOVA attorney or agent ensures that you will have a knowledgeable advocate. Our members hold VA accountable by making sure that the Department applies its laws and regulations to your case correctly.

Congress intended VA to be a veteran-friendly benefits system. Unfortunately, VA has often subverted that intent. Veterans (and their beneficiaries) with VA appeals need and deserve a professional advocate who knows the law to navigate a complicated bureaucracy. Hiring a professional veterans law practitioner is definitely your best option for obtaining the benefits you or your loved one earned while serving and defending our country.

When to Hire an Attorney/Agent

A recent change in VA law now allows a veteran to hire an attorney or qualified agent once the VA's appeals process has been initiated; that is, once a veteran has filed a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) at his or her Regional Office (RO).

Click Here for a Summary of the Claims Process.  

Unfortunately, the change in law (see 38 U.S.C.S. § 5904) only applies to claimants who filed their NOD on or after June 20, 2007.

If the veteran filed the NOD prior to June 20, 2007, then he or she must wait until the BVA issues a final decision before hiring an attorney or agent for a fee.

How to Choose an Advocate

As a result of the change in the law, some newly-trained and inexperienced advocates are promoting free, or pro bono, representation for veterans before VA. This is different from veterans advocates who represent veterans for free only in front of the CAVC. Like any individual seeking legal assistance, veterans need to protect themselves from incompetent or incomplete representation. Important questions to consider at the outset are whether these pro bono representatives intend to continue learning and studying VA law. Another important consideration is whether they intend to continue with the veteran’s claim until the veteran receives the highest possible rating with the earliest possible effective date. Incompetent representation or representation for an artificially short time is no gift to the veteran and can actually result in harm.

Don't be afraid to ask questions and speak to a few potential advocates before you make a decision.