The 'Attorneys for Veterans' or 'choice' legislation took effect in June 2007 and now the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) seeks a roll-back after years of working against the right of veterans to obtain legal counsel.
The adversarial system veterans face is bad enough but with the U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs now being pushed by VSOs that have become part of the problem in denying and delaying veterans disability claims, the DAV seeks to make a horrible situation worse.
Don't veterans deserve the right to legal counsel as early as possible when they confront a hostile bureaucracy? Just what the hell is the DAV's problem?
A letter by veterans advocate Kurt Priessman to the Senate and House Veteran Affairs Committee Chairpersons and members reveals the main issues.
March 15, 2010
Recently the DAV, after testimony by its Commander, Roberto Barrera, sought to overturn legislation providing basic choice to veterans to seek attorneys to represent them ((Public Law) P. L. 109-461) [the 'Attorneys for Veterans' legislation]. Many individuals I correspond with are in complete disagreement and feel that the Veterans Service Organizations in the rural areas cannot do an adequate job as they are undermanned, overworked, lack training and resources, and despite many representatives doing yeoman's duties are at a distinct disadvantage.
To portray attorneys as complete scoundrels is absolutely unwarranted, as is portraying veterans as complete dolts, and many veterans feel this position by the DAV is a flagrant misrepresentation fed by a definite conflict of interest. In fact, many veterans feel that there should be an expansion of the attorney - claimant relationship to allow veterans the opportunity for attorneys to begin representation at the onset of the claim.
Many of the basic fundamentals of the Constitution are denied veterans serving on active duty (Feres Doctrine, etc.), and this is no less than a restriction of a veterans right to due process. There can be little doubt that rather than being advocates for veterans, there are too many instances of delays and denials, discouragement of valid claims, and failures of the Department of Veterans Affairs adversarial system and its extensions, the VFW, the DAV, AmVets, and the American Legion.
As example, the VFW argued my claim had no merit, that it was legally held by the Haas Stay (repudiated directly by the Haas staff attorney Ethan C. Kallet, Esq.), and would not assist me in attempts to solicit information concerning any phase of my claim. In essence, they appear to be instruments of the DVA, repeating whatever the VBA says.
Please convey this sentiment to members of the Senate and House Veteran Affairs Committee Chairpersons and members of the respective Committees. There can be no less an evil than the DVA's action in Cushman vs Shinseki, (2008-7129), decided in the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, or the conversation with Chief Justice Roberts in Astrue vs Ratliff, who was startled that 'in litigating with veterans, the government more often than not takes a position that is substantially unjustified'. Veterans deserve a choice at the earliest opportunity possible, we cannot afford to continue a 1,000,000 claim backlog, or a process lasting eight (8) years or more to decide.
Kurt Priessman, MSgt, USAF (Ret)
B.A., M.B.A., C.P.M., Veteran Advocate