In Bipartisan, Bicameral Letter, Senator Rosen Presses VA To Enforce Existing Protections For Veterans Filing Initial Benefits Claims
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) joined U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), John Boozman (R-AR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Representatives Chris Pappas (D-NH) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) in calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to enforce all existing protections for veterans filing initial claims for disability benefits, and requesting information on additional tools the VA needs to hold bad actors accountable for scamming veterans. Current law prohibits individuals and businesses from assisting a veteran in the preparation, presentation, or prosecution of a VA claim unless they are accredited through the VA. Additionally, under current law, fees for assistance may only be charged after the VA makes a decision on an initial claim and all fees can only be calculated based on a veteran’s retroactive benefits.
“With the PACT Act providing the largest expansion of veterans’ benefits in decades, veterans are increasingly becoming the targets of predatory, quasi-legal claims consultants,” the lawmakers wrote. “The Department must exercise every enforcement tool at its disposal and request those it needs to better protect veterans from bad actors looking to take advantage of them.”
The VA and other federal agencies are limited in their ability to enforce the law because criminal penalties were eliminated from the statute nearly 20 years ago. For the past few years, the VA has asked for reinstatement of criminal penalties, and the Rosen-backed GUARD VA Benefits Act would reinstate those criminal penalties for unaccredited claim representatives charging veterans unauthorized fees while helping file their VA claims.
Continuing their efforts to protect veterans’ benefits, the lawmakers pressed the VA to look into what the Department can do, in addition to reinstating criminal penalties, to help protect veterans and their earned benefits, and asked the VA to inform Congress of its efforts to ensure veterans are not overwhelmed with filing an initial claim in the first place.
The lawmakers concluded their letter by urging the VA to move swiftly to answer their questions and protect veterans filing benefits claims, writing: “Maintaining the current status quo is not an option for our veterans who risked their lives to defend our country,” they continued. “We cannot allow unaccredited individuals to target veterans offering them access to VA benefits for a price. We appreciate your attention to our request, and look forward to working with the VA on solutions to help protect veterans and keep their hard-earned benefits where they belong.”
Read the lawmakers’ full letter HERE.