(U.S. Senate) – Continuing his push to protect veterans’ benefits from bad actors, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester recently introduced bipartisan legislation to hold unaccredited entities targeting Montana veterans and survivors accountable for their predatory practices.
The Senator’s Governing Unaccredited Representatives Defrauding (GUARD) VA Benefits Act would reinstate criminal penalties for unaccredited claim representatives who charge veterans unauthorized fees while helping file a Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) disability claims.
“I’ll take on anyone in Washington to protect Montana veterans from scammers looking to prey on their hard-earned benefits,” said Tester. “That’s why I’m leading the bipartisan effort to hold predatory actors accountable by reinstating criminal penalties that will protect the men and women who fought to protect our country.”
Current law prohibits unaccredited individuals and businesses from charging a fee for assisting a veteran in the preparation, presentation, or prosecution of a VA claim. However, 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.
The GUARD VA Benefits Act is supported by various Veterans Service Organizations and veterans’ advocates in Montana and across the country, including Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), and Veterans of Foreign War (VFW).
“It’s great that Senator Tester is taking the lead on the GUARD VA Benefits Act,” said Jeff Schepp, State Commander of the VFW Department of Montana. “Veterans should never be forced to foot the bill when it comes to getting the benefits have earned, and anyone who aims to do that would be held accountable with this bill.”
“I want to thank Senator Tester for introducing the GUARD VA Benefits Act and for his efforts to protect veterans’ benefits from bad actors,” said Bryan Zipp, a retired U.S. Army Montana veteran. “When you are on a fixed income, you count on every penny deposited in your bank account. The bottom line is agencies going after our most vulnerable veterans and their family members must be stopped. We need more Senators like Senator Tester who are willing to stand up against the people committing these crimes and get this bill across the finish line.”