Tester Calls on Colleagues to Crack Down on Claims Sharks Scamming Veterans, Alongside Veterans Service Organizations
Senator and Veterans Service Organizations stressed need to reinstate criminal penalties for “unaccredited thieves” preying on veterans’ hard-earned benefits with Tester’s GUARD VA Benefits Act
U.S. Senator Jon Tester, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today joined the nation’s leading Veterans Service Organizations at press conference to warn veterans about the dangers of pay-to-play claims consulting companies known as “claim sharks.” Tester urged his colleagues to reinstate criminal penalties to hold these “unaccredited thieves” charging veterans unauthorized fees while helping them file Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claims accountable.
“We’re here because veterans risked their lives to defend this country, and right now, VA does not have the appropriate enforcement mechanisms to hold crooks looking to prey on veterans and their hard-earned benefits accountable,” said Tester. “The PACT Act gives toxic-exposed veterans the health care and benefits that they have earned, and if it gives even one nickel to these claims sharks, I think there should be hell to pay.”
He continued, “That’s why I’m calling on my colleagues to join me in the effort to reinstate criminal penalties so that we can crack down on these claim sharks—because what they’re doing is illegal. It is against the law. Republicans and Democrats worked together to get the PACT Act passed, and we need to come together again to fix this problem so criminals cannot take advantage of our veterans with empty promises and a huge price tag.”
The Senator joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the National Association of County Veterans Service Officers (NACVSO), Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Student Veterans of America (SVA), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), and accredited veterans’ advocates at the press conference.
“The harm that unaccredited claims agents have caused veterans and survivors has been significant,” said Kristina Keenan, Deputy Director of the VFW National Legislative Service. “Several of these companies are even sponsoring veteran events, sporting events, and panels—doing everything they can to appear legitimate, while scamming people out of their benefits. Many thanks to Senator Tester for his continued partnership and leadership with the GUARD VA Benefits Act, to reinstate penalties to crack down on Claims Sharks.”
“DAV believes that no veteran should have to pay to file a claim under any circumstance. Period,” said Jim Marszalek, DAV National Service Director. “Yet, there are companies who look at those who have already paid a price through their service and sacrifices as targets to be used to line their own pockets. And they’ll do it by emptying veterans pockets under the guise of claiming they can do what VSOs like DAV can’t. And they’re wrong. With over a century of service to America’s disabled veterans, DAV and our fellow VA-accredited VSOs will continue providing assistance to our nation’s heroes and their families. And we’ll do it at no cost. We thank Senator Tester for his leadership in the effort to hold these bad actors accountable with the GUARD VA Benefits Act.”
Tester, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, is leading the effort along these Veterans Service Organizations to reinstate criminal penalties for predatory, unaccredited veterans’ claims representatives who charge veterans unauthorized fees while helping them file VA disability claims with his Governing Unaccredited Representatives Defrauding (GUARD) VA Benefits Act. He also led a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing in April to examine fraud and scams targeting veterans and their families, and identify mechanisms to hold bad actors accountable.
At a Senate Banking Committee hearing earlier this month, Tester and veterans advocates stressed the need to reinstate criminal penalties to hold these predatory organizations looking to exploit veterans filing for benefits accountable. The Senator also led a bipartisan, bicameral letter co-signed by more thirty members of Congress urging VA to increase their use of current enforcement authorities, asking what additional resources the Department needs to hold scammers accountable, and emphasizing that the current status quo is not an option.