A bipartisan Senate bill introduced Nov. 15 would reinstate criminal penalties for unaccredited claim representatives – known as “claims sharks” – who charge unauthorized fees while assisting veterans with filing a VA disability claim.
The Governing Unaccredited Representatives Defrauding (GUARD) VA Benefits Act, introduced by Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Richard Blumenthal (R-Conn.), strengthens an existing statute preventing claims sharks from charging for their work on initial veterans claims, which should be free for every veteran, and stopping them from charging excess fees for appealing a claim. The bill adds criminal penalties to the current statute, which has been without such penalties for nearly two decades, making it difficult to enforce.
[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmakers to Reinstate Penalties for Claims Sharks]
Concerns over unauthorized fees have risen since the passage of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act – the largest expansion of benefits and health care for toxic-exposed veterans since the original Agent Orange Act in 1991. Millions of veterans may become eligible for VA benefits based on the comprehensive, MOAA-supported legislation.
The aggressive advertising in the wake of the PACT Act’s passage has come in two parts: Legal ads related to the Camp Lejeune portion of the bill and general claims filing that stems from the new conditions and locations now covered. Reinstating criminal penalties will help deter unaccredited claims representatives from taking money that should be in veterans’ pockets.
“The Military Officers Association of America wholeheartedly supports the GUARD VA Benefits Act,” said Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), MOAA president and CEO. “Veterans deserve better than having a target on their back by predatory claims sharks looking to profit off their service and conditions. MOAA thanks Senators Blumenthal and Boozman for their bipartisan leadership on this bill and their commitment to ensure veterans are protected from scammers with accredited and accountable representation.”
This bill is a companion measure to a bipartisan House bill introduced Aug. 18 by Reps. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) and Jake Ellzey (R-Texas). The House bill has already gained over 100 co-sponsors, showing the frustration veterans are feeling from the aggressive tactics by claims sharks.
While time is limited in this session of Congress, putting a stop to claims sharks must remain a priority. Write to your lawmakers now and urge them to support the GUARD VA Benefits Act.