Representation Before the VA
Representation by the VFW, or any other federally chartered veterans service organization, requires that you authorize that representation by signing VA Form 21-22. This is an appointment of an accredited representative and is commonly referred to as a power of attorney. This appointment is limited to VA claims activity and does not extend to military claims or Social Security claims or any other purposes. You may be represented by only one organization at a time. Appointment of another organization or a private attorney immediately cancels representation by any prior organization. It is your responsibility to know who represents you. If you do not know who presently represents you call us. We can check with the VA and inform you of any current representation.
The VFW is pleased to represent you in your claim with the VA. We know that you have a choice when you select an accredited representative and we are honored that you have placed your confidence in the VFW. There are a few things that are important for you to consider as your claim is considered by the VA.
If you filed your claim through a local IDVA or County VAC office they should continue to be your primary contact with questions and for assistance regarding your VA claim.
The VFW Service Office is not the VA. The VFW is a private nonprofit veterans service organization that has accepted the challenge of assisting veterans, their dependents and their survivors in the pursuit of benefits administered by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Organization membership or affiliation is not required for representation by the VFW.
VFW services are provided free of charge. The VFW receives no compensation for our services from the VA or from any other agency of the federal government.
You appointed the VFW to represent you and you are represented by the organization, not an individual. From time to time the Service Officer handling your claim may change due to staff changes or office management requirements. Every effort is made to keep a case with the same Service Officer throughout the consideration of a claim.
VFW Service Officers are accredited by the VA. Accreditation is required to allow access to VA files and computer systems. Accreditation is recommended by the VFW and granted by the VA. Accreditation is annually reviewed by the VA and continued based on confirmation of completion of required annual training provided by our national organization. Each Service Officer employed by the Department of Illinois VFW is a veteran who has served in a combat zone and is a member of the VFW.
It is the goal of the VFW to obtain for our clients the maximum VA benefits to which they are entitled under the law. This often requires that we explain the federal regulations under which a claim will be adjudicated or appealed. You as the claimant cannot succeed if you do not know the rules.
The VA claims process can be very lengthy and times frames vary widely based on the type of claim and the number and character of the disabilities being claimed. Time frames for processing of claims cannot be predicted and it would be irresponsible of us to do so. Veteran’s pension claims and all widows’ claims are processed in Milwaukee rather than Chicago making timeliness of these claims even less predictable.
During the progress of a claim you may receive from the VA requests for additional documents or information deemed necessary to consider your claim. We request that all responses to all such requests be submitted through the VFW Service Office and not directly to the VA. This is the only way that we have of reviewing information being submitted on your claim prior to it being considered by the VA. The VFW will receive copies of many of these communications from the VA but it is your responsibility to provide the requested information. The VFW will not assume the responsibility of responding to the VA to any inquiry without input from you, the claimant.
If you or your local representative have any questions about your claim or any request for information you have received from the VA we encourage you to contact us. Our office receives phone calls from 8:00am to 3:30pm at 312-980-4284. You may also contact the Service Officer handling your claim directly at their personal email address. We encourage email inquiries because they may be responded to by available staff more timely than may be possible through attempts to make contact via phone.
If you call us and are not able to talk to the Service Officer you desire you may leave a message with the receptionist. Phone calls are not taken by Service Officers during personal interviews in the office. Phone messages are returned in the order in which they are received. Our office has a high volume of interviews daily and a large number of phone messages daily. Your question is important to us and if you do not receive a return call within 48 hours you are encouraged to contact us again. We make every effort to respond to all inquiries as soon as possible but hope that you will understand that the number of inquiries we receive is large and delays will occur. Please call again or email if you do not receive a timely return phone call.
When the VA publishes a rating board decision on your disability claim they are required to give the VFW the opportunity to review that decision. This is done on a daily basis. This review is not always done by the Service Officer handling your claim due to time and availability restrictions. When you receive notice of the decision on your claim you are invited to contact us if you have any questions. We welcome the opportunity to discuss the decision with you or your local representative before you make any decision regarding a request for reconsideration or appeal.
During the VA claim process you may become frustrated with the process. We request that you do not take your frustration with the VA out on VFW staff members. The VFW Service Office is here to advise and assist you in your pursuit of VA benefits.
Thank you for allowing the VFW to represent you.