(U.S. Senate) – Speaking at a recent Senate Banking Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Jon Tester stressed the importance of protecting servicemembers, veterans, and their families from bad actors and scammers who see them as a payday. Servicemembers, veterans, and their families are targeted for scams and fraud at a higher rate than the civilian population.
“The folks who are looking to steal benefits and money from our servicemembers and veterans are lower than rats,” Tester said following the hearing. “While a historic number of veterans are receiving benefits thanks the PACT Act, we have bad actors who are looking to exploit them and their families’ hard-earned benefits. We passed the PACT Act to finally deliver these toxic-exposed veterans the health care and benefits they earned, not to give crooks a payday, and we need to do everything we can to ensure these scammers are held accountable.”
During the hearing, Cory Titus, Military Officers Association of America’s (MOAA) Director of Servicemember Compensation and Veterans Benefits, highlighted that MOAA is starting to see a broader level of organizations exploiting veterans: “A good example is the claims sharks…and the efforts there that have really picked up since the PACT Act. And speaking specifically to that, I think that’s a good example of when something is illegal on the books, but there’s no enforcement mechanism. They run rampant.”
Tester underscored the need to take action to hold these predatory organizations accountable: “I met with…some [Veterans Service Organizations] yesterday, and this is very high on their list. Taking advantage of veterans is not something that happens rarely…Is there anything that Congress needs to do from an enforcement standpoint to hold the crooks more accountable than what they’re being held right now?”
Titus responded, “I would highlight the GUARD VA Benefits Act, Senator.”
Tester, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, is leading the effort 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.
Continuing his efforts, Tester led a bipartisan, bicameral letter in September calling on VA to enforce all existing protections for veterans filing initial claims for disability benefits and request additional tools they need to hold bad actors accountable for scamming veterans.