- Obama military downsizing leaves U.S. too weak to counter global threats, panel finds
- Sen. Tom Coburn vows to slow down budget-busting bills ahead of recess
- Obama fantasizes about more executive power, signs new order on federal contractors
- Clintons call Klein, Halper, Kessler ‘a Hat Trick of despicable actors’: report
- Boehner accuses Obama of ‘legacy of lawlessness’
- Pro-marijuana group claims responsibility for Brooklyn Bridge flag swap
- Young adults shun Obamacare mostly due to cost: survey
- Stabbing attack on transgender girl, 15, was ‘bias motivated,’ police say
- LGBT adults still lean overwhelmingly toward Democratic Party
- Lawmakers rattled by Syria genocide horrors, call on Obama to act
Veterans groups object to change on lawyer fees
Question of the Day
Veterans groups fear unscrupulous lawyers will prey on ex-military personnel seeking medical claims from the Department of Veterans Affairs when a Civil War-era law is replaced later this year.
The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and other groups are challenging the new law that allows lawyers to collect fees for representing injured veterans earlier in their appeal, undermining the long-standing practice of pro bono representation.
“We’re leery about the fact that now we’ll see attorneys on TV advertising services to veterans that they can get elsewhere at no charge,” DAV Executive Director David Gorman said. “We just think that a lot of [veterans] will unnecessarily go to these attorneys.”
The new statute, which passed in December and is scheduled to take affect in June, permits veterans challenging a claim dispute with the VA to hire a lawyer as soon as they appeal.
Previously, veterans could hire lawyers or other legal agents only after the VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeal reached a decision on their case, thus exhausting the administrative appeals process.
The new law doesn’t affect a veteran’s right to legal counsel at any time of the claim process on a pro bono basis, which veterans groups like the DAV help arrange for ex-service personnel.
“We think [the pro bono system] is the bedrock of the VA compensation system,” Mr. Gorman said.
The original law dates to the 1860s and placed a limit of $10 that lawyers could charge veterans on claims cases. The $10 cap remained until the late 1980s, when lawyers were barred from collecting any fees until the final step in the appeals process.
But supporters of the new law, sponsored by Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican, say the old policy has outlived its usefulness, and that removing barriers limiting veterans’ ability to seek legal representation gives them more legal options.
“Senator Craig feels strongly that veterans are adults and should be able to hire an attorney if they wish,” Craig spokesman Jeff Schrade said.
And not all veterans groups oppose the law. Vietnam Veterans of America says the new statute reverses more than a century of discrimination against veterans.
“It’s outrageous to think that an enemy combatant or an illegal alien has the right to hire an attorney, but a disabled veteran doesn’t,” said Rick Weidman, the group’s executive director for policy and government affairs.
The Disabled American Veterans only opposes the law because the group risks losing relevance if veterans hire a private attorney instead of using the group’s own legal services, said Arthur N. Bernklau, executive director of Veterans for Constitutional Law Ltd., a veterans-advocacy group.
“The veterans of this country do not have a worse enemy than the DAV,” Mr. Bernklau said.
DAV National Commander Bradley Barton has pleaded with Congress to repeal the law.
Both parties recognize the Democrats' scam
- Inside the Ring: Israel surprised by Hamas tunnel network
- CRUZ: A tale of two hospitals: One in Israel, one in Gaza
- Chicken pox outbreak puts illegal immigrant facility on lockdown
- Obama military strategy too weak for future security, panel reports
- Report: 40% of weapons sent to Afghanistan are unaccounted for
- Israel surprised by Hamas tunnel network
- CIA admits improperly hacking Senate computers in search of Bush-era information
- Islamic militants seize Benghazi as U.S. evacuates Libya
- 'Big Bang' star Mayim Bialik helps send bulletproof vests to IDF
- 3 African leaders cancel trip to U.S. over Ebola outbreak; Obama still plans summit
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world