Tester’s GUARD VA Benefits Act Receives Strong Support at Final Hearing with Veterans Service Organizations

The American Legion highlighted strong support for Chairman Tester’s efforts to hold scammers preying on veterans accountable by reinstating criminal penalties

At the last of three joint Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearings with the nation’s leading Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) today, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester spoke with leaders of The American Legion about his legislative effort to hold predatory claims sharks looking to exploit veterans seeking assistance with their benefits accountable, including those receiving expanded benefits under his PACT Act.

“A common theme I have heard during the VSO hearings is the need to crack down on predatory claims consultants,” said Tester. “Commander Seehafer, does The American Legion support our efforts to reinstate criminal penalties for violating existing law through S. 740, which is also called the GUARD [VA Benefits] Act?”

National Commander Daniel Seehafer emphasized The Legion’s strong support of theGUARD VA Benefits Act: “Without a doubt we support that legislation. That is sick to me…[Our service officers are] the true ally, the true friend that I want standing—not only by the veteran—but also supporting the family. That is who we are.”

Tester is leading the charge in Congress to hold these bad actors accountable with his bipartisan GUARD VA Benefits Act, which would reinstate criminal penalties for unaccredited claims representatives who charge veterans unauthorized fees while helping file a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claims.

Underscoring The Legion’s role in helping solve current issues facing veterans and their families, the Chairman noted the important role the organization has played in helping pass important veterans’ legislation, including the Deborah Sampson Act, the Hannon Act, and the PACT Act.

“The American Legion has been a key partner in passing critical legislation for veterans and their families over the past few Congresses…but the fact is our work is far from being done,” said Tester. “There are a number of issues requiring legislative action, from veterans’ suicide to homelessness to education benefits. We need the Legion’s input and we need your support to get these priorities across the finish line.”

Tester highlighted his ongoing legislative efforts to improve veterans’ mental health care, including his bipartisan Not Just a Number Act to require VA to take a more comprehensive look at factors that best prevent veteran suicide. He also discussed his bipartisan Critical Health Access Resource and Grant Extensions (CHARGE) Act of 2023, which seeks to combat veterans homelessness by reauthorizing successful measures previously utilized by VA to curb veterans homelessness.

Tester also questioned The Legion on its efforts to work with VA to expand toxic-exposure presumptive conditions under the PACT Act, which established a science-driven framework to establish new presumptive conditions for toxic exposures. Tiffany Ellett, The American Legion’s Director for Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division, assured the Senator that their team has been working closely with the Veterans Benefits Administration and the Veterans Health Administration on this issue.

During the hearing’s second panel, the Committee also heard legislative presentations from Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A., Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, Military Officers Association of America, National Association of County Veterans Service Officers, National Congress of American Indians, Vietnam Veterans of America, National Guard Association of the United States, and Fleet Reserve Association.


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