On August 1st, 2013 the Government Accountability Office released a report that states what anyone practicing Department of Veterans Affairs Pension Law already knows: the VA Accreditation system is fundamentally flawed.
According to the report, the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of General Counsel does not “sufficiently ensure that accredited representatives have good character and knowledge.”
How can the agency charged with protecting veterans allow individuals without knowledge and experience to assist and charge former servicemen and women for substandard work?
The answer is simple. The GAO report goes on to say that the Department of Veterans Affairs has tasked four employees to run and oversee the VA accreditation process. To put this into perspective, the VA receives thousands of accreditation applicants annually, in addition to keeping tabs on the over 20,000 representatives already accredited.
We think the Department needs to double the staff tasked with ensuring the integrity of the VA accreditation system. While that number may be insufficient to ensure veterans and their families receive the representation and counsel they deserve, it’s a start.
We are not surprised that the general level of knowledge among accredited agents and attorney’s is so low. The accreditation process for attorney’s does not include adequate safeguards to ensure that representatives have a minimal level of knowledge.
The application for accreditation includes references and employment history. These sections of the application are evidently just for show, because the GAO report states that references are not followed up with and past employment not fact checked.
The lesson here is to be careful. Not all Department of Veterans Affairs accredited representatives are created equal. Some have the skill and knowledge to properly advise you on your claim. Others are just as likely to provide information that will get your application denied.