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A Growing Problem: Washington Post Discuss Unaccredited Claims Consultants

Robert Chisholm

June 26, 2024

A Growing Risk: Washington Post Addresses Growing Threat of Unaccredited Claims Consultants

A recent exposé by The Washington Post says that there have been a surge in the number of unaccredited claims consultants charging disabled veterans to help with their claims, despite federal laws that appear to prohibit this.

According to the article, since the passage of the PACT Act in 2022, veterans have faced an influx of unaccredited claims consultants who charge veterans to file initial claims, obtain medical evidence, and more. According to The Post, these unaccredited companies and consultants may charge unreasonable fees, depriving veterans of thousands of dollars of their future VA disability benefits.

The continued rise of these consultants has caused significant concern among veterans’ advocacy groups, lawmakers, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) itself.

Unintended Consequences of the PACT Act

The Washington Post reports that the passage of the PACT Act provided $280 billion in new benefits and health care for veterans exposed to toxic substances during their service. By doing so, the PACT Act inadvertently created fertile ground for claims consultants, or for-profit companies, to target veterans who were newly eligible for expanded benefits.

The PACT ACT Explained: Toxic Exposure Veterans' Benefits

According to The Washington Post, despite federal laws prohibiting charging veterans for assistance with initial claims, approximately 100 unaccredited, for-profit companies have found ways to exploit a loophole in these regulations.

“Interviews with current and former employees, VA officials and court documents reveal a booming industry that charges veterans anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 for help filing disability claims that by law should be free. Many former service members are enticed by aggressive online and TV sales pitches from the largely veteran-led groups that promise a success rate of up to 90 percent in boosting benefits.”

The Washington Post suggests that the reason that veterans turn to unaccredited, for-profit companies despite the inherent risks and high costs is because they are disillusioned with the lengthy and bureaucratic process of fighting VA.

“Veterans are often left with few choices and may feel compelled to pay for what they believe will be quicker and more efficient service, even if it comes at a high cost.”

One of the concerns highlighted by The Washington Post is VA’s limited power to stop these unaccredited claims consultants. This situation stems from Congress’s decision years ago to remove criminal penalties from the law governing claims assistance.

Understanding the Laws About VA Claims Consultants: Veterans Benefits

This legislative gap appears to have directly enabled the proliferation of these for-profit companies. The Washington Post notes, “Despite the clear intent of federal law, the absence of strict enforcement mechanisms has allowed these entities to thrive.”

State legislatures in New York, New Jersey, and Maine have banned or otherwise restricted these unaccredited, for-profit companies. Similar bills are pending in a number of other states. Several lawsuits have been filed against these companies, including by the Texas attorney general, accusing them of predatory practices. Additionally, the VA Inspector General’s office has opened criminal investigations into some firms.

What Veterans Can Do to Reduce Risks

  • Verify Accreditation—Claimants can check the accreditation status of any representative or organization through VA’s Office of General Counsel website.
  • Report Fraud—If a claimant encounters illegal practices, veterans can report the activity to the VA Office of Inspector General.
  • Protect Personal Information—Never share sensitive personal information, such as Social Security numbers, passwords, VA Benefits portal access, medical or financial details, with unverified or unaccredited consultants.

About the Author

Bio photo of Robert Chisholm

Robert is a Founding Partner of CCK Law. His law practice focuses on representing disabled veterans in the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and before the Department of Veterans Affairs. As a veterans lawyer Robert has been representing disabled veterans since 1990. During his extensive career, Robert has successfully represented veterans before the Board of Veterans Appeals, Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

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