Legislative Message - November
PRESS RELEASE - NOVEMBER 15, 2023
NACVSO, Lawmakers and Top Veteran Service Organizations Meet to Denounce For-Profit Claim Representation for Veterans
Top veteran advocates meet to speak out against the threat of legislation intended to legitimize for-profit claims agents representing veterans during the initial benefit claim process
WASHINGTON D.C. – Senator Jon Tester (R-MT) and Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) were joined by top advocates from Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), The National Association of County Veteran Service Officers (NACVSO), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), and others to express concern over the threat of legislation that would legitimize what some are calling “Claims Sharks” in the landscape of veterans seeking benefits for the first time with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Introduced in March of this year, the Preserving Lawful Utilization of Services for Veterans Act of 2023, or PLUS Act, would end the century-old practice of preventing agents or attorneys from collecting fees from veterans seeking benefits for the first time through VA.
NACVSO Legislative Director Michael McLaughlin provided remarks alongside VFW and others stating that “a pay-to-play system is a monumentally bad idea,” for veterans, calling any effort aimed at legitimizing a for-profit system of representation “morally reprehensible.”
McLaughlin provided a brief history of the current advocacy system in place, outlining how veterans of previous conflicts had been subject to predatory representation tactics. This lead congressional leaders to enact the current rules and protections in place intended to prevent veterans from having to pay for services during the initial claim process.
“There is no question that any legislation allowing companies or individuals to profit from a veteran’s sacrifice is a return to what failed over a hundred years ago.,” McLaughlin said.
Speakers and VSO representatives were equally incredulous.
Tester called for the reinstatement and enforcement of criminal penalties to those profiting from veterans initial claims while Takano emphasized that congressional protections for veterans was and will always be a bipartisan effort. Miranda Powell from Student Veterans for America described her experience in being taken advantage of by a for-profit representative during her transition from military to civilian life.
“These individuals and companies prey on veterans at their most vulnerable; during that period when veterans need those resources the most,” Powell said.
All in attendance called on leaders to expand pro-bono systems for veterans seeking representation. “We are aware that the current system is not a perfect one. But the current issues are not due to the lack of availability of profit-based companies but lie in the lack of support for expanding access to free representation, and pursing VA reforms because the service and sacrifice of veterans is not a commodity,” said McLaughlin.
The NACVSO Legislative Director ended his remarks with a vision of the future for veterans seeking advocacy. He pleaded with leaders that they cannot send the message to future service men and women that “their service will only be worth the cost of the representation they are able to afford.”
“We stand united in opposing any legislation that would legitimize for-profit representation in the initial claim process,” McLaughlin concluded.
The event ended with speakers and representatives debriefing in the VFW Headquarters conference room.
ABOUT NACVSO: The National Association of County Veterans Service Officers is the national advocacy organization for the nation’s approximately 1,800 CVSOs, local government employees who aggressively pursue all benefits for veterans and eligible family members in their local communities. NACVSO supports CVSOs through education, training and advocacy programs. Established in 1989 by VSOs from eight states who saw the need for a national association to provide education, training and advocacy, NACVSO held its first Annual Training Conference in 1991.