Veterans' Advocates include non-governmental organizations/individuals who work on veterans' claims, lobby for legislative changes, promote veterans' health care, and/or support veterans' education needs. VSOs, attorneys, and State Veteran Departments undergo VA accredidation procedures to represent veterans with VA claims. Once accredited, a VSO, attorney, or State Veterans Department can prepare, present, and prosecute a VA benefits claim. For an updated list of accredited organizations and attorneys, see the VA's Accreditation Search.
The VA recognizes over twenty Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) that handle VA claims. This guide will only identify several VSOs that handle the bulk of these claims. For a full listing of VSOs see the VA's current Directory of Veterans Service Organizations.
American Legion. The American Legion is one of the oldest congressionally chartered VSOs in the United States. The organization has legion halls throughout the country, advocates for veterans rights, fundraises for veterans programs, sponsors public programs, and has veterans' service officers who handle VA claims.
Disabled American Veterans. The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) was founded by disabled veterans with the mission of advocating and promoting disabled veterans' rights and benefits. The DAV handles a large percentage of veterans' benefits claims.
Vietnam Veterans of America. Vietnam veterans organized the Vietnam Veterans of America to help Vietnam veterans. The organization helps veterans by advocating for veterans rights, assisting with veterans claims, and also relies on membership support to help the public (e.g., disaster relief). More Vietnam veterans are reaching retirement age, and many health issues associated with Agent Orange exposure are manifesting, resulting in more Vietnam veterans seeking VA benefits and services.
Veterans of Foreign Wars. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) is a VSO that assists veterans with VA claims. VFW Veterans Service Officers help veterans file VA claims, and assist veterans through the VA's reconsideration request or appeals process.
Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs is the Illinois agency that manages IL veteran programs and benefits. The department's Veterans Service Officers are located in offices across the state. An Illinois veteran can contact the IL Department of Veterans Affairs for help with federal or state veterans' benefits.
The following NGOs specialize on providing more holistic services to disabled veterans:
Paralyzed Veterans of America. The Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) was founded by a group of severally wounded World War 2 veterans, who suffered from spinal cord injuries. The goal of the group is to provide advocacy and direct resources to help wounded veterans, suffering from spinal cord injuries, work and live. The PVA advocates for veterans' health care, research and education that focuses on spinal cord injuries, VA benefits, and civil rights for PVA disabled members.
Wounded Warrior Project. The Wounded Warrior Project was founded in the early 2000s to provide holistic services to wounded veterans, who served on or after 9/11, and their families. The organization provides care packages to wounded warriors, provides education programs, rehabilitative programs, mentorship programs, social outings, and organizes sporting events that provide adaptive equipment. The WWP's goal is to help promote wounded warriors integration into society.
The John Marshal Law School Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic. The John Marshal Law School's Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic assists veterans and family members with VA claims. The law clinic analyzes VA claims and refers cases to its pro bono network of attorneys.
Legal Aid Foundation of Chicago. The Legal Aid Foundation (LAF) of Chicago was formed to help provide legal assistance to those who cannot afford legal services. LAF is currently establishing its veterans service department, and has not established the scope of services it will provide veterans. You can call LAF at (312) 341-1070, for more details on the services it provides veterans.
Historically, attorneys rarely represented veterans' VA claims before the VA. In 2006, Congress amended veterans' law, permitting attorneys to charge fees for representation after a notice of disagreement was filed. This act along with a growing number of attorneys providing pro bono representation to veterans has increased the number of attorneys handling veterans' claims.