Bill Provides Qualified Assistance for Claims Filing Process, Protects Against Scammers
Sep 29 2022
WASHINGTON––U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), senior members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, along with Reps. Scott Peters (CA-52) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02) introduced the Veterans Claims Education Act of 2022 to provide educational resources for veterans filing an electronic claim and to steer veterans to work with Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)-accredited entities. This will limit the ability of predatory companies to unfairly profit off veterans trying to access their hard-earned benefits.
“Ensuring veterans have the resources to make informed decisions about filing VA claims is an important way to assist the heroes who have worn our nation’s uniform. This legislation will safeguard veterans from becoming victims of entities aiming to make a profit off of their service. I’m proud to support this effort to strengthen claims education,” said Boozman.
“This legislation informs veterans of legitimate information sources when they make disability claims, so they can avoid scams and frauds,” said Blumenthal. “Across the country, bad actors have tried to exploit those seeking their rightfully-earned benefits by charging veterans for free services. Our measure allows applicants to report profiteering and helps identify where they can get VA-accredited help filing their claims. I’m proud to join this bipartisan, bicameral effort to protect our veterans and get them the services they deserve.”
“The emergence of an industry that promises to maximize the benefits awarded from the Department of Veterans Affairs to veterans, but actually scams individuals undermines the promise America has made to its veterans and their families,” said Peters. “Veterans should never feel pressured into signing contracts with companies committed to enriching themselves at the expense of our veterans. America can do better. The Veterans Claims Education Act provides individuals filing benefits claims without VA accredited services with the information they need to access readily available and free resources.”
“Our servicemembers dedicate their lives to protecting our country, and it’s our duty to ensure they are properly cared for both during and after their service,” said Miller-Meeks. “Our bill will provide veterans with the information and resources they need to navigate filing a claim with the VA without falling victim to bad actors. It’s sad to think there are entities looking to take advantage of veterans, but I am proud to join this bill to put an end to their efforts.”
Specifically, the bill requires the VA to:
- Inform all veterans filing a claim that there are accredited entities that can assist them.
- Provide the web address of an online search tool that lists accredited entities that can assist veterans with filing a claim.
- Provide a publicly accessible web address where veterans can file a complaint to report entities that are unaccredited and target veterans by charging a fee for their services.
“Many unaccredited claims consultants or ‘Claims Sharks’ make false promises and charge veterans inappropriate fees for assistance with their VA disability claims. Since the COVID-19 pandemic and with the recent passage of the PACT Act, claims sharks have intensified their predatory practices. Veterans deserve to be informed of the benefits and protections offered when working with accredited claims representatives. The Veterans Claims Education Act of 2022 would require that the Department of Veterans Affairs provide veterans who file a claim on their own with information and resources about accredited representatives, and a means to report when they have used the services of unaccredited consultants. The VFW thanks Congressman Peters and Congresswoman Miller-Meeks, along with Senators Blumenthal and Boozman, for introducing this important legislation to help protect veterans and their earned benefits,” said Kristina Keenan, Assistant Legislative Director for Veterans of Foreign Wars.
“On behalf of more than 1.6 million Legionnaires, The American Legion is proud to support the Veterans Claims Education Act of 2022. This legislation provides essential education and awareness of non-accredited entities attempting to represent veterans in filing claims to ensure veterans are not unjustly cheated out of the benefits they rightly deserve. The American Legion will always support legislation intended to protect veterans from fraud and improve the claims process for all disabled veterans. We thank Rep. Peters and Rep. Miller-Meeks along with Sen. Blumenthal and Sen. Boozman for introducing this important bill,” said Adi Thampi, Legislative Associate for The American Legion.
Upon separating from military service, veterans may file a disability claim with the VA on their own or by utilizing VA-backed resources, such as an accredited attorney, a claims agent or a Veteran Service Officer (VSO). An accredited representative or VSO must pass an exam, complete a background check and take continuing education courses to ensure they provide up-to-date information to veterans. These accredited resources may file an initial claim with VA on the veteran’s behalf free of charge.
Unfortunately, an ecosystem of non-accredited, for-profit entities has emerged which preys upon veterans’ frustrations with VA’s claims process. These companies often provide “consulting” services to help veterans prepare and present relevant paperwork needed to file a claim with VA in exchange for lump sum payments, a percentage of the total dollar amount awarded for a successful claim or some other payment mechanism. Such fees lead many veterans to receive far too little of the benefits to which their service entitles them. Current legislative proposals designed to curb the excess of these companies focus on more stringent enforcement of existing laws and regulations.