Washington, D.C. – The National Association of Attorneys General issued a letter today on behalf of a bipartisan coalition of 44 attorneys general expressing support for the passage of legislative proposals included in Governing Unaccredited Representatives Defrauding (G.U.A.R.D.) Veterans Affairs (VA) Benefits Act.
In the letter to congressional leaders, the attorneys general explain that the passing of the bipartisan legislation would hold unaccredited and unregulated actors accountable for targeting and preying upon veterans who apply for federal VA benefits.
“Our nation has long recognized its obligation to provide support and care for those veterans and their families as compensation for their many sacrifices,” the attorneys general wrote in the letter. “The GUARD VA Benefits Act would remove the ability of unaccredited, unregulated, and often unscrupulous actors to target and prey upon those veterans with impunity. It holds them accountable not just to the law but also to the veterans and their families by giving them options for redress when they find themselves victims of those same actors.”
Federal law requires proper accreditation through the VA Office of General Counsel (OGC) for anyone who assists veterans in preparing, presenting, or prosecuting claims However, in 2006, the OGC became virtually powerless to enforce the federal statute against anyone who was not following the law due to the removal of criminal penalties.
The attorneys general said in the letter that, without accountability, unaccredited actors can advertise coaching and consultation services that are purportedly superior to the free services offered by accredited actors such as veteran service officers, claim agents, and attorneys. In reality, the veterans do all of the work, and the unaccredited actors may only answer questions or advise.
According to the letter, the unaccredited actors never contact the veteran once the veteran finishes the claim. Accredited veteran service officers and claim agents, on the other hand, do all of the required work and remain available to the veteran. Additionally, since unaccredited actors do not have access to the VA claim system, some require the veteran to share system logins, passwords, or even bank account information so fees can be immediately withdrawn before the veteran even learns claim money has been deposited.
Attorneys general from the following states and territories signed the letter:
Alaska, America Samoa, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) is the nonpartisan national forum for America’s state and territory attorneys general and their staff. NAAG provides a community for members to collaboratively address issues important to their work and resources to support attorneys general in protecting the rule of law and the United States Constitution.