Reason No. 1 — The need for accredited agents is great
There are approximately 24 million veterans alive today, and three-quarters of them served during a time when the United States was at war or during an official conflict period. One-fourth of the U.S. population (approximately 63 million citizens) are potentially eligible for VA benefits and services because they are:
- a veteran
- a dependent of a veteran
- parents of a veteran
- the surviving spouse of a veteran
Millions of senior veterans need help paying for their long term care expenses. Currently, approximately 11.5 million seniors could apply for the VA Pension — that’s 33 percent of the U.S. population over 65 years of age! Fewer than 5 percent of possible eligible veterans are currently receiving benefits. The World War II veterans are currently applying for their VA Pension benefits, but the Vietnam era veterans will be applying very soon.
As the tsunami of baby boomers continues to reach retirement age, millions of new seniors will look to a trusted financial adviser for help. The successful adviser is accredited with the VA. Currently, there are not enough accredited agents to assist veterans, and the need for knowledgeable, trusted, accredited agents will continue to grow.
Reason No. 2 — Federal regulations
To fulfill its stated mission to care for and honor veterans, the VA has drafted several regulations governing who may assist veterans or their family members with claims. 38 U.S.C. § 5901 states that "…no individual may act as an agent or attorney in the preparation, presentation, or prosecution of any claim under law administered by the Secretary, unless such individual has been recognized for such purposes by the Secretary.”
In other words, it is a violation of federal law for an individual to assist a veteran in the preparation, presentation or prosecution of a claim, unless the VA gives its permission for the individual to assist. The VA names four classes of people who can assist the claimant.
What does the VA regulation mean when it states that there is a prohibition against “preparation and presentation... of any claim?”
Many people have written to the VA because they had questions about the meaning of the words “preparation” and "presentation” and what, specifically, the VA is prohibiting. The VA has written several opinion letters to explain its interpretation of the meaning of the words “preparation” and “presentation.” When a claimant wants to file a claim for benefits, if the agent is not accredited, the VA considers “counseling” or “gathering information” for a claimant unlawful activities, which are prohibited by the Code of Federal Regulations.
If there is a complaint, the burden of proof is on the individual to prove that he or she did not “counsel” or "gather information” for the claimant.
Reason No. 3 — Accredited agents are the leaders who assist the veteran community
There are very few accredited agents or attorneys at this time. Accredited agents always have referrals to help with:
1. assisted living facilities, independent living facilities, home health agencies and nursing homes
How does an agent become accredited?
2. hospital discharge planners
3. funeral homes
4. attorneys who are not accredited
5. agents and planners who are not accredited
6. VSOs who want you to assist
7. geriatric care managers
8. senior certified real estate agents
The agent completes and mails an application form (available at www.va.gov
) to the Office of General Counsel in Washington, DC. When the application is approved, the Office of General Counsel will send the agent a letter and inform the agent to schedule an appointment to take an accreditation test at the local VA Regional Office. The closed book accreditation test consists of 25 questions and is administered and monitored at the VA Regional Office.