Seth Director is frequently recommended for many of the VA questions placed on Avvo.com. You would be well served to send Mr. Director an e-mail of the facts and circumstances around your father's case, and he could reply, accordingly. Good luck.
Representatives who are accredited by the VA are permitted to to charge for obtaining VA benefits. However, you can apply directly on line VA.Gov, or request one of the military service organizations, such as the DAV, VFW, and other organizations who will assist you for free. Additionally if you are near a VA facility you can go in with a copy of your Father's DD Form 214 and relevant medical information and employees who work for the VA will assist with the application. If the VA denies the claim for your father then you may wish to consult with an accredited representative at that time. Fees are normally 20 % of any past due award.
It is going to be easier for me to answer this through the VA's own assessment:
Question: May an accredited agent or attorney charge fees for preparing a claims form?
Response: No. Accredited agents and attorneys may only charge fees for representation.
I realize that their are companies out there that use two vehicles to work around the clear statutory restrictions under 38 U.S.C. 5904(c): (1) payment by a disinterested third-party under 38 C.F.R. 14.636; and/or (2) charging a fee for pre-filing consultations. I presume that is how the insurance agent would explain how fees could be charged. You may want to contact a local Veterans Service Officer in your area who can assist you without charge. Contact information in your area can be found at http://www.cacvso.org/
First, be sure to check whether the insurance person you mention is properly accredited with the VA. With very limited exceptions, only VA-accredited attorneys, agents and organizations may help a claimant prepare and submit a claim for Pension (with aid and attendance). You can check the VA website to see whether this individual is on the accreditation list. If he or she is not, then do not use them. VA-accredited agents, attorneys and organizations are trained to do this type of work.
In the last few days, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission issued a warning to the public about “Pension Poachers” who use deceptive sales techniques (i.e., “lies”) on veterans to cheat them out of money with false promises about VA Pension (Aid and Attendance). Typically, these schemes involve attempts to sell unsuitable financial products, investments, insurance policies and the like to the unsophisticated. Be especially aware of these risks in your situation.
Second, absolutely no one may charge a fee for the preparation, presentation or prosecution of an INITIAL claim for Pension. Fees may be charged after a claimant has received an unfavorable decision on that initial claim. In other words, fees may be charged only after the claimant receives an official Notice of Disagreement from the VA.
If you still want to work with this insurance agent, I suggest that you demand that the agent provide a written statement from the insurance company he represents that (1) the company approves of the agent's use of VA Pension as a way to "get in front" of customers to sell its products and (2) that the company legally and financially stands behind its agent if the agent does a poor job of the application. It's highly unlikely that the company will issue such a letter — which will suggest that using this agent for VA Pension is not a good choice.
What Davis said is right on. If anyone that wants to charge you to do the application, you should run.
It is legal to make money by doing legal work or by selling annuities, but you should know the amount and what you are paying for.
Below is an article I wrote on the FTC report referenced by Davis.
No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers. I am only licensed in Alabama and no information is intended to be legal advice. Instead, it is simply general education information to help encourage you to speak with a licensed lawyer in your state.