Veterans Law Journal
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Thanks to Dave Barrans, Chief Counsel of VA's OGC Benefits Law Group, for providing written responses to 2 questions posed during the Sixth Annual "VA Update" Program.
Question: I have an attorney fee related question for OGC. For disputed attorney fee decisions (where VA finds two attorneys may be potentially entitled to the withheld fee) after that decision is referred to OGC, is there a better point of contact than the accreditation mailbox to follow-up on those contested decisions? Thank you!
Response: For inquiries to the Benefits Law Group’s (BLG) Accreditation, Discipline, & Fees (ADF) program, including inquiries about two-attorney/agent fee matters that have been referred to OGC, we ask you to use the Accreditation Mailbox email@example.com. Using the Accreditation Mailbox enables ADF to ensure we’re tracking and addressing the incoming matters. Please note that, although the Accreditation Mailbox is always monitored by one of our paralegals, there are sometimes delays in processing ADF matters due to high volume and staffing shortages such as we are currently experiencing and working to remedy. Improving the administrative process with regard to attorney fee reasonableness matters is one of the reasons that the ADF program is working on developing the outward-facing, on-line portal that was discussed in the BLG update. ADF anticipates that, in many respects, the on-line portal will replace the Accreditation Mailbox.
Question: What about discipline for unethical POA behavior, like patterns of requesting Board hearings only to withdraw the request after the hearing is scheduled, thereby delaying adjudicating, while increasing possible attorney fees?
Response: The Benefits Law Group (BLG) update regarding complaints about unaccredited individuals was not intended to address the entire scope of complaints received by the BLG’s Accreditation, Discipline, & Fees (ADF) program. The ADF website (https://www.va.gov/ogc/accreditation.asp) and the ADF Fact Sheet, “How to File a Complaint,” (https://www.va.gov/OGC/docs/Accred/HowtoFileaComplaint.pdf) address other complaint scenarios, including a complaint, such as the one described in your question, against a VA-accredited attorney, claims agent, or veterans service organization representative that involves a violation of the standards of conduct for VA-accredited individuals in 38 C.F.R. § 14.632. You may mail a complaint to the Office of the General Counsel (022D), Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20420. But ADF will also respond to such complaints that are submitted to the Accreditation Mailbox firstname.lastname@example.org. (Please use only one method to submit any such complaint.)