Do VA Benefits Pay Attorney Fees in Florida?
Like most types of government benefits, securing Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits often is not as easy as it should be. In fact, many veterans and families struggle to secure benefits despite having a clear entitlement under federal law. The good news is that you can hire an attorney to help you, and you can do so at no out-of-pocket cost.
Understanding Attorney Fees for VA Benefits Claims in Florida
Our firm handles all VA benefits claims on a contingency-fee basis. This means that we do not charge any up-front fees or costs, nor do we bill for our attorneys’ time on a monthly basis. When you choose Colling Gilbert Wright, you will only pay legal fees if we help you secure past-due benefits that you have been wrongfully denied.
When choosing a law firm to help with your VA benefits claim, there are several important considerations to keep in mind. Federal law restricts the fees attorneys can charge for handling VA benefits claims, but law firms still have some flexibility to charge different fees in different ways. Here are some key facts you need to know:
1. Law Firms Can Charge Hourly Rates, Fixed Fees, or Contingency Fees
Federal law allows law firms to charge hourly rates, fixed fees, or contingency fees for handling VA benefits claims. With hourly rates, you are required to pay for your lawyer’s time regardless of whether your claim is successful. The same is true with fixed fees—although at least you will know how much you are going to have to pay. Contingency fees are different. When a law firm handles your VA benefits claim on a contingency-fee basis, you only pay legal fees if your claim is successful.
2. Legal Fees for VA Benefits Claims Must Be “Reasonable”
Federal law requires all attorney fees charged for handling VA benefits claims to be “reasonable.” When evaluating the reasonableness of a law firm’s fees, the VA considers factors, including:
- The extent and type of services provided
- The complexity of the claim
- The level of skill and competence required to handle the claim
- The amount of time spent handling the claim
- The results achieved
- The level of review at which the lawyer was engaged and at which the claim was resolved (i.e. before the Board of Veterans Appeals or the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims)
- The fees the attorney charges for similar services
- Whether the attorney provides contingency-fee representation
A contingency fee of 20% is presumed to be reasonable, while a contingency fee above 33 1/3% is presumed to be unreasonable. In order to charge a fee above 33 1/3%, a law firm must present “clear and convincing evidence” to the VA that a higher fee is warranted.
3. Contingency Fees Above 20% Must Be Paid By the Claimant Directly
Law firms that charge contingency fees of 20% or below are entitled to receive payment directly from the VA—provided that this is clearly stated in the firm’s fee agreement (more on this below). If a law firm charges a contingency fee above 20%, it must collect the fee from the veteran or family directly following the resolution of the claim.
4. Your Attorney Fee Agreement Should Be Clear and in Writing
Regardless of the fee a law firm charges, the fee should be clearly explained in a written attorney fee agreement. You are entitled to know the fees you will be charged in advance—including whether you will need to pay the fee or the firm will receive payment directly from the VA. You should feel free to ask any questions you have; and, if you cannot get straight answers about the fees you will be charged, you may want to consider a different law firm.
5. You Should Only Be Charged Legal Fees for Recovering Past-Due Benefits
Finally, while a law firm may assist with various aspects of your VA benefits claim, you should only be charged legal fees for the recovery of any past-due benefits. Law firms cannot charge veterans and families for assisting with initial claims or the recovery of future VA benefits in most cases.
These are the general rules regarding attorney fees for VA benefits claims in Florida. The laws governing attorney fees for VA benefits claims are complicated, and there are exceptions that apply in some circumstances. If you have questions and would like to speak with an attorney risk-free, we invite you to call 800-766-1000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.