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AG Nessel Joins Coalition Urging the Passing of G.U.A.R.D. VA Benefits Act

LANSINGMichigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined a bipartisan coalition of 44 attorneys general in issuing a letter to congressional leaders 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, Attorney General Nessel and the coalition explained the bipartisan legislation would hold unaccredited and unregulated actors accountable for targeting and preying upon veterans who apply for federal VA benefits.

“Many of our veterans require assistance accessing the government benefits they've earned or submitting claims to federal agencies,” Nessel said. “When they seek responsible and qualified representation or assistance, they should be able to trust that professionals offering to help them have their best interests in mind, and not their own self-enrichment. The G.U.A.R.D. Act will support our servicemembers by helping protect them from fraudsters vying for a piece of benefits they did not earn.”

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.

Attorney General Nessel and the coalition state 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 Attorney General Nessel and the coalition, 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some require the veteran to share system logins, passwords or even bank account information so fees can be immediately withdrawn before the veteran even learns claim money has been deposited.

Joining AG Nessel in submitting the letter are the attorneys general of Alaska, America Samoa, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, 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.


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