To prepare documents or advocate for individuals on specific VA claims, you must be accredited by the VA. This is required even if you are a lawyer in good standing in your state bar.
The process begins with the filing of a VA application for accreditation, the Form 21a.. You can file it in one of three ways.
- By mail to the VA Office of General Counsel at the address on the form;
- By fax to the VA Office of the General Counsel (022D) at (202) 495-5457;
- By email, attaching it as an electronic PDF file to an e-mail sent to email@example.com.
It can take several months for the VA to review the Form 21a.
Common mistakes include the failure to provide an explanation for affirmative responses to questions 13 - 23 on the Form 21a, which requires VA to seek additional information. Applicants who are employees of the federal government may not be eligible for accreditation, since they are generally barred from representing claimants before a federal agency.
Next steps: If you are an attorney, you may receive a letter from the VA requesting additional information.
If you are not an attorney, you may receive a letter from the VA that informs you that (1) your application has been received, and/or (2) VA is requesting reference letters from the individuals listed on your appplication, and/or (3) you must pass a written claims agent examination at a VA facility near you. At present, the exam takes 90 minutes and includes both multiple choice and true/false questions. You may also receive a subsequent letter requesting additional information.
If your application is denied, there is no appeal process but you may reapply in the future.
If your application is accepted, you will receive a letter in the mail from the VA Office of General Counsel. Do not rely on telephone confirmation. You can begin providing services immediately. Remember that you must file a VA Form 21-22a when acting as a representative on a specific claim.
CLE requirements: Within the first 12 months of your accreditation, you must also complete and report three hours of a veterans’ law “continuing legal education” [CLE]. Then, within 3 years of initial accreditation and within every 2 years thereafter, you must complete and report three hours of a veterans' law CLE course.
Ongoing reporting requirements: These reporting requirements can be satisfied by mailing, faxing or emailing to the Office of General Counsel (via the methods allowed for the Form 21a above).
- on an annual basis around your accreditation anniversary, a self-certification regarding all courts, bars, or Federal or State agencies to which you are admitted to practice, with your identification numbers and membership information. The self-certfication should also indicate that you remain in good standing in every jurisdiction in which admitted.
- within 30 days, any change in your status in any jurisdiction in which you are admitted to practice.
- as needed, any change to your address or phone number.