The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether Uncle Sam has a legal basis for enforcing a $10 limit on attorney fees in claims against the Veterans Administration, and one lawyer who will be watching how the high court rules is D.C.'s Allan Kamerow.
Kamerow recently represented, free of charge, a 45-year-old Alexandria woman, Jackie Reese, who claims she was entitled to a hefty pension after the death of her husband, an Army lieutenant colonel who died of causes related to alcoholism.
The VA had rejected Reese's claim four times in four years before she went to Kamerow. Her problem: VA regulations stipulate that medical pensions can't be awarded unless a diagnosis is made within a year after discharge. The cirrhosis that killed Reese's husband wasn't diagnosed until 62 days after the one-year period had lapsed.
"The people at the VA tell the claimants, 'You don't need a lawyer, we will help you.' So they're acting as your attorney, they're acting as the government's attorney, they're acting as the judge and there's no judicial review," said Kamerow.
The lawyer said he spent $4,700 worth of his time convincing the VA that Reese's husband must have developed his medical problems before his discharge. The VA awarded Jackie Reese $800 a month, but still no fee for Kamerow.