Attorneys and advocates who assist claimants with the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims for VA benefits must first be accredited by the VA. To receive this accreditation, you must file aVA Form 21a with the Department. It may take several months for the accreditation process to be completed.
You cannot represent the claimant before the VA until you are accredited. If you seek to provide services (even free of charge) while waiting for this to happen, the VA will notify your client that you are not yet accredited and they will refuse to recognize you as the representative of record.
On December 29, 2015, VA published a final rule amending 38 C.F.R. § 14.636(g) and (h) to remove the requirement that agents and attorneys file direct-pay fee agreements with the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) in Washington, DC. Under current regulations, fee agreements should only be filed with VA in one location. Any fee agreement calling for VA to directly pay the agent or the attorney fees from the claimant’s past-due benefit award must be filed with the VBA Regional Office. For information on where to mail the fee agreement, visit: www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/mailingaddresses.asp.
Other information about the accreditation process is provided in the FAQ section of the VA website.