Veterans Service Officers: Why you need them, and how to find a good one.
Published October 6, 2023
If you are a veteran returning to civilian life, you are likely familiar with the numerous challenges associated with reintegration.
From finding a civilian job, managing physical and mental health concerns that arise because of your service, and ensuring you successfully navigate the VA benefits to which you are entitled, you need support from someone who understands both your unique challenges and the VA system.
This is where veteran service officers (VSOs) enter the picture. VSOs are individuals With special knowledge of the VA claims process. Among other roles, they are tasked with assisting veterans and their families in the process of filing benefits with the Department of Veterans affairs.
Often veterans themselves, VSOs also have understanding and empathy for the difficulties facing veterans as they return to society.
Some of their key roles include helping veterans understand the benefits, gathering documentation, and submitting claims to the VA.
Most veteran service officers are employed or work through a agency. They are generally free for veterans and funded by the agencies themselves or through government grants.
In this article, we explore the importance of the veteran service officer for ensuring that you get the benefits you are owed as a result of your military service and how to go about finding the right VSO.
Finally, we’ll touch on some situations where you might consider a licensed attorney to assist with your specific situation.
Why you need a veteran service officer to help you get your benefits
You might assume that securing your benefits should be a straightforward process.
Unfortunately, the VA is a government institution that moves slowly, has a large bureaucracy, and sadly has a reputation for denying valid claims on various grounds.
From documentation issues to missed deadlines, there are any number of challenges that can result in your claims being denied.
This is where your veteran service officer comes into play. When you are initially filing a claim, you should always take advantage of a VSO to help you meet deadlines and make sure all your paperwork gets filed.
This includes your DD214, service treatment records, and medical evidence related to your injury or illness such as doctor’s reports, X-rays, and medical test results.
The process of securing this paperwork and filing it correctly can be overwhelming, especially as you are juggling your reintegration.
You have enough on your plate, and since a veteran service officer is a free resource, don’t hesitate to reach out and secure this help.
Additionally, if it’s been a while since your discharge and a new disability claim need arises, you should absolutely seek help from a veterans service officer.
Oftentimes, claims that arise down the line can be more difficult to secure, making it even more important to ensure you get professional help with the process.
How to find the right veteran service officer for your needs
The first step to finding an accredited veteran service officer is to go to eBenefits to find a local representative. You can also use this method to find an attorney or claims agent in your zip code.
You can also search The VA Office of the General Counsel’s list to find recognized veteran service organizations or VA-accredited individuals.
Secondarily, you can look for organizations that specialize in your specific needs.
Certain organizations specialize in helping veterans from specific wars due to the nature of combat in that war and the frequently raised claims that occur because of the conflict.
This is also true for certain types of injury incurred during your service.
For example, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America focuses on the issues facing post 9/11 veterans, while the Paralyzed Veterans of America organization specializes in helping veterans with spinal cord injuries or diseases.
These are just two examples of specialized veteran service organizations.
Finally, you can always ask fellow veterans for recommendations on a specific veteran service officer.
Regardless of which officer you speak with, you should never pay a fee for their service and you should always interview them and decide for yourself if they’re the right fit.
When to consider a veteran’s lawyer instead of a veteran service officer
While veteran service officers provide an exceptional resource for individuals who have served their country in the military, there are some limitations to consider and situations where hiring a lawyer may be a better option.
Most veteran service officers have broad expertise in the various needs veterans face.
These go beyond filing legal claims, and include helping them find jobs, working with their families, and providing other support services to assist in their return to civilian life.
Certain claims are more complex or require specialized expertise. This is especially true if you have a medical claim that was denied by the VA for any number of reasons.
In this case it is highly recommended to consult with a lawyer licensed to practice veteran’s law.
The training veteran’s lawyers undergo before being licensed to work is extensive, and focuses especially on the legal aspects of dealing with the VA and related issues.
Most veterans service lawyers will offer a free consultation, however there is often a charge for retaining their services.
In many cases you will only pay if you win your claim, it’s important to understand that retaining a lawyer for your claim is a private service that is not covered by government grants.
If you are faced with the difficult choice that comes with having a VA claim denied, seeking professional qualified veteran’s legal services is almost always the right option.