Local attorney threatens to sue VA over unpaid fees

VA said they will solve matter
Posted at 5:39 PM, Dec 06, 2016

Attorney James Wardell went through numerous legal documents showing money the VA owes him for cases he won for disabled veterans.

"They confirmed they owed it they just refuse to pay it," said Wardell. "It is very frustrating if this was a private company or a private individual that did this we could immediately sue them for civil theft and you can get three times the damages."

But the federal government works differently. Attorney's like Wardell need a  special license to represent veterans and also agree to a lower rate. Something Wardell said he's more than willing to do. It's his way of giving back. But now it's costing him tens of thousands of dollars.

"This not really their money anymore. It is the veterans money that they deducted from," said Wardell.

He showed Action News legal paperwork on three cases he won.

The fees due were more than $14,000, $21,000 and even one dating back to a case he's been working on since 2006 of more than $44,000.

"I am getting no answer from the VA on where my check is. Why they have not sent it or where the money is," said Wardell.  

Wardell's patience is running out. He's called and sent numerous e-mails. Now he's considering suing the VA.

"I think I am not going to have any choice if I don' t start getting any results," said Wardell.

He also said this could have an impact on the veterans that need legal representation after suffering disability in action.

"This is a barrier to quality lawyers accepting cases for veterans," said Wardell.  But we are still doing it. We are not going to stop because I am not going to let the VA or anyone treat our veterans that way.

Action News called the VA to get answers. A spokesperson said they would look in to it, and they did.

Late Tuesday afternoon the VA responded and sent us this statement:

Thank you for bringing the matter of Mr. Wardell's attorney fee payment to our attention. We understand and embrace the importance of working with our stakeholders to ensure that Veterans receive the best possible service.  We will be in direct contact with Mr. Wardell to ensure this matter is addressed expeditiously.

Thank you,
Bruce Clisby
Management Analyst
St. Petersburg VA Regional Office
"One team, One mission: An advocate for Veterans."