The requirements for this process are outlined in full in CFR § 14.629: Requirements for Accreditation. NOVA strongly encourages you to read the full text of the regulation prior to applying for accreditation, as the below is just a summary for your convenience.
For more information, please see the VA’s Office of General Counsel’s (OGC) accreditation page here: https://www.va.gov/ogc/accreditation.asp. The answers to many FAQs can be found here: https://www.va.gov/ogc/accred_faqs.asp.
Accreditation: Accreditation means the authority granted by VA to assist claimants in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims for benefits. Unaccredited individuals may provide other services to veterans so long as they do not assist in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims for benefits.
Certification: To maintain accreditation, you must annually certify that you are in good standing. This is called “Certification.” According to CFR § 14.629 (b)(iv): To maintain accreditation, agents and attorneys are required to complete an additional 3 hours of qualifying CLE on veterans benefits law and procedure not later than 3 years from the date of initial accreditation and every 2 years thereafter. To qualify under this subsection, a CLE course must be approved for a minimum of 3 hours of CLE credit by any State bar association. Agents and attorneys shall certify completion of the post-accreditation CLE requirement in the same manner as described in § 14.629(b)(1)(iii). VA regulations require that accredited agents and attorneys certify in writing to VA’s Office of the General Counsel that they have completed qualifying CLE. The certification must include the title of the CLE, the date and time of the CLE, and identification of the CLE provider.
Assistant General Counsel Approval:
The Assistant General Counsel of jurisdiction or his or her designee will conduct an inquiry and make an initial determination regarding any question relating to the qualifications of a prospective service organization representative, agent, or attorney. If the Assistant General Counsel or designee determines that the prospective service organization representative, agent, or attorney meets the requirements for accreditation in paragraphs (a) or (b) of this section, notification of accreditation will be issued by the Assistant General Counsel or the Assistant General Counsel’s designee and will constitute authority to prepare, present, and prosecute claims before an agency of original jurisdiction or the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. If the Assistant General Counsel determines that the prospective representative, agent, or attorney does not meet the requirements for accreditation, notification will be issued by the Assistant General Counsel concerning the reasons for disapproval, an opportunity to submit additional information, and any restrictions on further application for accreditation.
Accreditation of Agents and Attorneys:
(1) No individual may assist claimants in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims for VA benefits as an agent or attorney unless he or she has first been accredited by VA for such purpose.
(i) For agents, the initial accreditation process consists of application to the General Counsel, self-certification of admission information concerning practice before any other court, bar, or State or Federal agency, an affirmative determination of character and fitness by VA, and a written examination.
(ii) For attorneys, the initial accreditation process consists of application to the General Counsel, self-certification of admission information concerning practice before any other court, bar, or State or Federal agency, and a determination of character and fitness. The General Counsel will presume an attorney’s character and fitness to practice before VA based on State bar membership in good standing unless the General Counsel receives credible information to the contrary.
(iii) As a further condition of initial accreditation, both agents and attorneys are required to complete 3 hours of qualifying continuing legal education (CLE) during the first 12-month period following the date of initial accreditation by VA.
(iv) To maintain accreditation, agents and attorneys are required to complete an additional 3 hours of qualifying CLE on veterans benefits law and procedure not later than 3 years from the date of initial accreditation and every 2 years thereafter.
(2) An individual desiring accreditation as an agent or attorney must establish that he or she is of good character and reputation, is qualified to render valuable assistance to claimants, and is otherwise competent to advise and assist claimants in the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of their claim(s) before the Department. An individual desiring accreditation as an agent or attorney must file a completed application (VA Form 21a) with the Office of the General counsel, 810 Vermont Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20420, on which the applicant submits the following:
(i) His or her full name and home and business addresses;
(ii) Information concerning the applicant’s military and civilian employment history (including character of military discharge, if applicable);
(iii) Information concerning representation provided by the applicant before any department, agency, or bureau of the Federal government;
(iv) Information concerning any criminal background of the applicant;
(v) Information concerning whether the applicant has ever been determined mentally incompetent or hospitalized as a result of a mental disease or disability, or is currently under treatment for a mental disease or disability;
(vi) Information concerning whether the applicant was previously accredited as a representative of a veterans service organization and, if so, whether that accreditation was terminated or suspended by or at the request of that organization;
(vii) Information concerning the applicant’s level of education and academic history;
(viii) The names, addresses, and phone numbers of three character references; and
(ix) Information relevant to whether the applicant for accreditation as an agent has any physical limitations that would interfere with the completion of a comprehensive written examination administered under the supervision of a VA Regional Counsel (agents only); and
(x) Certification that the applicant has satisfied the qualifications and standards required for accreditation as prescribed by VA in this section, and that the applicant will abide by the standards of conduct prescribed by VA in § 14.632 of this part.
(3) Evidence showing lack of good character and reputation includes, but is not limited to, one or more of the following: Conviction of a felony, conviction of a misdemeanor involving fraud, bribery, deceit, theft, or misappropriation; suspension or disbarment from a court, bar, or Federal or State agency on ethical grounds; or resignation from admission to a court, bar, or Federal or State agency while under investigation to avoid sanction.
(4) As a further condition of initial accreditation and annually thereafter, each person seeking accreditation as an agent or attorney shall submit to VA information about any court, bar, or Federal or State agency to which the agent or attorney is admitted to practice or otherwise authorized to appear.
(5) VA will not accredit an individual as an agent or attorney if the individual has been suspended by any court, bar, or Federal or State agency in which the individual was previously admitted and not subsequently reinstated.
(6) After an affirmative determination of character and fitness for practice before the Department, applicants for accreditation as a claims agent must achieve a score of 75 percent or more on a written examination administered by VA as a prerequisite to accreditation. No applicant shall be allowed to sit for the examination more than twice in any 6-month period.
Initial Accreditation Application Form: VA Form 21a.
Representation by Attorneys, Law Firms, Law Students and Paralegals.
After accreditation by the General Counsel, an attorney may represent a claimant upon submission of a VA Form 21-22a, “Appointment of Attorney or Agent as Claimant’s Representative.”
Appointment of Individual as Claimant’s Representative Form: VA Form 21-22a.
DISCLAIMER: ONLY NOVA MEMBERS ARE PERMITTED TO USE NOVA'S FORMS.