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For those that have served in the armed forces, the Veterans Service Officer (VSO) is their point of contact with the VA when it comes to claiming their VA benefits. A Veterans Service Officer is specifically tasked with handling VA claims.
5 Ways a VSO Can Help
- Prepare a Claim
- Submit a Claim
- Track a Claim
- File an Appeal
- Power of Attorney
The Department of Veterans Affairs has established the Veterans Service Office to help streamline the benefits and services that are offered to veterans, active duty members, dependents, and surviving spouses. If a veteran requires representation to appeal a veterans disability claim, an accredited Veterans Service Officer can assist them.
Unlike a veterans disability attorney, the services rendered by the VSO are free of charge. The Veterans Service Officer provides skilled counsel as it pertains to navigating the claims process through the VA. They will represent you, prepare claims, submit them, track them, and if necessary, file an appeal on your behalf. But beyond the main proceedings of the claims process, the aid provided by a Veterans Service Officer can be rather far-reaching.
Prepare a Claim
There is quite a bit that can go into the preparation process for filing a claim with the Veterans Affairs office. You have to have all of your paperwork in order, and you need to have medical reports filed. Just keeping track of all the boxes that need to be checked during the claims process can feel like a full-time job. If you already have several other things on your plate, it can get overwhelming. A qualified and accredited service officer, however, can be extremely helpful when it comes to preparing a claim for benefits.
The Veterans Service Officer not only prepares the claim but also aids in the presentation and pursuit of veterans benefits for military personnel. They also grant compensation for the dependents and surviving spouse of a deceased veteran who has served in the military in the past. With a VSO on your side, you don’t have to deal with the stress of preparing your claim on your own—you’ve got a skilled and knowledgeable ally working tirelessly on your behalf.
Submit a Claim
A Veteran Service Officer can also help submit a VA disability claim. There are many reasons why veterans may not be able to submit the claim themselves. It could be that they have suffered a major disability that hinders them from engaging in the application process on their own. If this is the case, the veteran service officer can step in and submit the claim for them.
The service officer will help to initiate the VA claim for eligible veterans, their surviving spouse, or any dependents. Your VSO has the wherewithal to gather all of your needed documentation, so you don’t have to. Submitting a claim for veterans benefits can be a stressful process, but with an accredited veterans service organization, and veteran service officer on your side, the process is much easier.
Track a Claim
After your VA Claim is filed, the service officer can track that claim for you. From that point forward, your VSO will be your point of contact if you have any questions for Veterans Affairs. With a VSO officer on your side, you will have someone who will inquire with the VA on your behalf. The VSO is with you every step of the way, and will actively track your claim throughout the process.
It can be time-consuming to have to shoulder the load of tracking a claim by yourself. Having an additional set of eyes and ears can be very helpful. The county Veterans Service Officer assigned to your case will be more than willing to lend their assistance when it comes to keeping track of any ongoing VA claim that you may have.
File an Appeal
Should you not be satisfied with a decision regarding your veterans benefits, you have the right to appeal. The Veterans Service Officer can be of great assistance in this effort, helping veterans receive benefits that might otherwise be denied. For example, if a veteran did not meet the standard for military retirement pay, filing an appeal through your VSO could grant you a VA pension as an alternative.
A VSO can also help appeal a veterans disability rating. For a veteran to qualify for disability, their claim needs to be evaluated and they need to be given a disability rating. These ratings range from 10% to 100% disability. Those that receive a rating of 100% disability will qualify for the most benefits.
At the end of the claims process, applicants will receive what is known as a “Preparation for Notification.” It is within this packet of paperwork that the claimant’s proposed rating and subsequent compensation are recorded. If the claimant disagrees, this determination can be appealed.
Depending on the disability sustained, a disabled veteran may not be able to file an appeal on their own. Fortunately, a Veterans Service Officer can file an appeal on a disabled veteran’s behalf. Veteran service officers are specially trained to deal with VA claims and the appeals process that comes along with it.
Power of Attorney
If you grant someone the “power of attorney,” you are giving them express permission to handle your legal affairs. This allows the Veterans Service Officer to initiate claims on your behalf, as well as collect important information and evidence that is relevant for your VA claim.
The service officer granted with power of attorney will be able to conduct a final review of the outcome of your claim and any federal benefits that you may receive. If the determination is not what the claimant sought, the VSO with power of attorney can file an appeal on the veteran’s behalf. Eligible veterans and qualifying family members can grant power of attorney through an accredited veterans service organization.
One key thing to keep in mind is that power of attorney is not set in stone. It’s a fluid situation that can be altered at will. If you were to change your mind about granting power of attorney to a VSO or would like to redirect that power of attorney to another representative, you can always rescind it later.
You also have the option of allowing only “limited representation.” This means that the VSO that you grant power of attorney to only has authority over certain aspects of the claim. For some of the more complicated VA claims, with many moving parts, a more limited form of power of attorney may be advised.
What Is an Accredited Veterans Service Officer?
It is the job of the Veterans Service Officer to get you and your family the compensation they deserve. It is for this express purpose that they have received their accreditation from a Veterans Service Organization. Accredited veterans organizations include groups like AMVETS (American Veterans), DAV (Disabled American Veterans), VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), and one of the most recent ones—IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America).
Most of these accredited veterans service organizations were founded by veterans themselves. For someone to become a Veterans Service Officer and receive their accreditation, they must receive a passing score on an officially sanctioned examination and must also have their background checked. All of this is a part of the accreditation process.
How Much Does a VSO Cost?
For eligible veterans, the VA can assign a service officer free of charge. The veterans service organization does not charge for the use of a county veteran service officer. Regular attorneys or even VA claims agents, on the other hand, will charge a fee for their service. The veterans service organization was established to serve as a free resource for active duty soldiers, veterans, their surviving spouse, and any dependents.
What’s the Best VSO for Disability Claims?
When it comes to filing disability claims, seek assistance from a VSO specializing in helping veterans with their claims. When choosing a VSO, consider factors such as their reputation, experience, accessibility, and proximity to your location. It’s a good idea to reach out to multiple organizations to find the one that best suits your needs and preferences. Additionally, you can seek recommendations from fellow veterans or consult with local VA offices for further guidance on selecting a VSO to support your disability claim.
Here are a few reputable ones known for their expertise in disability claims:
1. Disabled American Veterans (DAV): DAV is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for disabled veterans. They have a strong presence nationwide and offer free assistance in navigating the disability claims process. DAV has accredited service officers who can provide guidance, help gather necessary evidence, and represent veterans during the claims process.
2. Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW): VFW is one of the largest and oldest veterans organizations in the United States. They have service officers trained to assist veterans with their disability claims. VFW service officers provide support in understanding the claims process, gathering evidence, and ensuring veterans receive the benefits they deserve.
3. American Legion: The American Legion is another prominent veterans organization that provides support and advocacy services to veterans. They have accredited service officers who can assist with disability claims. American Legion service officers can help veterans understand the claims process, complete paperwork, and compile necessary medical evidence.
4. Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA): VVA focuses on addressing the specific needs of Vietnam-era veterans. They have service officers who are well-versed in disability claims and can provide guidance to veterans seeking benefits. VVA also offers resources and support related to Agent Orange exposure and other conditions associated with the Vietnam War.
How Do I Find a VSO?
The easiest way to locate a VSO to help with your claim is to go online to a site called eBenefits. Click on “Apply” from the top menu. Then, scroll down to the option, “Request a representative for VA claims.” Here you will be prompted to log in or if you don’t have an account already, to create one. Once you are signed in, you can request representation by a Veterans Service Officer based upon the state and county where you live.
You can also request a VSO through the mail by filling out a special VA form and mailing it out to your local Veterans Affairs office. And if none of these options seem appealing, it’s also possible to stop by your local VA office, where you can specifically designate a county Veterans Service Officer to represent your VA claim.