The VA must do more to “protect veterans from bad actors looking to take advantage of them” during the claims process, according to a bipartisan letter from 30 House and Senate members addressed to VA Secretary Denis McDonough.
The Sept. 14 letter also seeks input from VA on other resources needed to prevent such fraud, and brings up one potential assist – the MOAA-supported Governing Unaccredited Representatives Defrauding (GUARD) VA Benefits Act, which would restore criminal penalties for such actions. Congress removed those penalties nearly 20 years ago.
[TAKE ACTION: Protect Veterans From ‘Claims Sharks’]
The act was introduced during the 117th Congress, but did not become law. The current Senate version (S. 740) has 22 co-sponsors in addition to sponsor Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), while the House version (H.R. 1139) has 127, along with sponsor Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.).
“We do not want to limit a veteran’s ability to seek help,” the lawmakers wrote to McDonough, “we are simply trying to guarantee, when a veteran seeks assistance, they can trust that the individual meets the highest ethical and professional standards and they will not have to give up their hard-earned benefits to access VA.”
Millions of veterans have become new potential targets for unaccredited representatives, and potential benefits fraud, after becoming eligible for VA benefits via the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, which took effect last year.
These veterans may not be aware of no-cost support available to them during their claims process. MOAA recommends reaching out to an accredited Veterans Service Organization (VSO) for assistance; find one near you at this link.
Your state also may participate in the County VSO (CVSO) program. You can find out by searching online for your state’s department of veterans services.
[RELATED AT MILITARY.COM: ‘Status Quo Is Not an Option’]
Veterans and their family members seeking VA care or compensation should not be greeted with higher-than-allowed fees – or worse, flat-out claims fraud. Join MOAA’s efforts to move this bipartisan, bicameral legislation forward as part of our ongoing work to preserve service-earned benefits.
Learn more about other MOAA advocacy priorities by registering at our Legislative Action Center.
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