“My mother, who is 81 years old, lives in an assisted living community and was married for 50+ years to my deceased father who was a retired military veteran and served in combat, needs to apply for VA benefits. My question is: Who can help my mother apply for these VA benefits?"

Answer:  Federal law dictates that no one may help a veteran in the preparation, presentation and prosecution of an initial claim for VA benefits unless that person is accredited. The only exception to this law is that any one person can help any veteran — one-time only — with a claim. To help any veteran a second time requires accreditation.

VA recognizes 3 types of individuals for purposes of accreditation.

(1) Accredited attorneys
(2) Accredited agents and
(3) Accredited representatives of service organizations. (Veterans Service Officers)

In order to be accredited to help veterans with new claims, an individual desiring this certification from VA must submit a formal application, must meet certain character requirements and work history requirements and — except for attorneys — must pass a comprehensive test relating to veterans claims and benefits. There are also requirements for ongoing continuing education.

Without accreditation no one may help a veteran with a claim more than one time.

Thomas L. McKenzie, Attorney at Law
Law Offices of Thomas L. McKenzie
Cypress, California  90630
Member of the national ElderCare Matters Alliance, California chapter

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