USING A REPRESENTATIVE (VSO)
In this journey through the 'undiscover'd country,' your representative, better known as a Veteran Service Officer (VSO) can be a very welcome guide as you proceed on your quest. However, if the guide isn't experienced, then he/she could cause you to lose your way.
I am not yea or nay on a VSO. We used one in our appeal, BUT I did a lot of the work for him because I didn't want anything to be missed.
While visiting various veteran websites I have discovered that there are no specific guidelines as to how a VSO is trained or how well a VSO does his/her job. Whether you choose a veteran organization such as Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, or Veterans of Foreign Wars (to use as examples) or your state's Veterans Affairs makes no difference to quality or the lack thereof.
Sometimes you don't even have a choice depending on how the organization is set up. Sometimes, also, it is a matter of geography, where one center represents a territory with no other choices available.
In many instances, choosing yourself as your own VSO might be the better choice for the entire process or the majority of investigative research. It might be that you can combine the two, you doing all the labor and then getting someone to do the liaison with the VA.
If you do feel more comfortable having a VSO handle your paperwork and corresponding with the VA, let me make some comments and suggestions.
- Whatever organization you choose, the VSO should not charge you any sort of fee. Most organizations about which I know offer these free services to all veterans, whether a member of their organization or not. However, it is courteous and respectful if you are able to join that organization. Remember, veteran organizations work hard furthering the interests of veterans, either singly or as a group.
- Any correspondence with the VSO or the VSO with the VA, request a copy for your records.
- Keep in touch so you know what the status is. Do not leave the VSO out of the loop if you contact the VA direct. Let the VSO know what you are doing.
- Do not inundate the VSO with lots of contacts. Try to give all your information at one time. Don't keep sending him bits and pieces that are not necessarily vital to your claim.
The VSO is trying to help lots of veterans. Every time he gets documents they have to be filed which takes up time that is better utilized by helping another veteran.