Washington, D.C. — Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to introduce legislation that holds unaccredited entities accountable for predatory practices that target men and women who served in uniform. The Governing Unaccredited Representatives Defrauding (GUARD) VA Benefits Act would reinstate criminal penalties for unaccredited claim representatives who charge unauthorized fees while helping file a disability claim.
Current law prohibits unaccredited individuals and businesses from charging a fee for assisting a veteran in the preparation, presentation, or prosecution of a VA benefit claim. However, 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.
“We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude for their service, and we have an obligation to ensure they have convenient and unobstructed access to the care and benefits they earned. This legislation gives us the tools to help our veterans and continues our commitment to supporting those who sacrificed so much for our country,” said Bennet.
“Ensuring veterans have the resources to make informed decisions about filing VA claims is an important part of helping them access the benefits they’ve earned. They also deserve to have trusted and reliable advocates working on their behalf, which is why we must hold accountable those aiming to make a profit off their service. I’m proud to join Senator Blumenthal to strengthen education of the claims process and hold bad actors responsible for their predatory practices,” said Boozman.
“This measure ensures veterans can access their rightfully-earned benefits free of charge,” said Blumenthal. “Stronger safeguards are needed to protect those who served our country from wrongdoers hoping to cash in on the onerous claims process. Holding profiteers accountable through criminal penalties is an important step that will support our heroes. I’m proud to join Senator Boozman in this effort to prevent our veterans from being exploited.”
“The GUARD VA Benefits Act addresses the unaccredited claims consultants who take advantage of vulnerable veterans and their family members,” said Gerri Rimpley, State Commander, Colorado Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. “This bipartisan bill will protect the hard-earned benefits that veterans earned and not allow the benefits to freely flow to underserving claim sharks.”
Along with Bennet, Boozman, and Blumenthal, the legislation is cosponsored by Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Angus King (I-Maine), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Mike Braun (R-Ind.).
The full text of the legislation is available HERE.