December 7, 2022
Time and time again, Congress has made great strides on behalf of our veterans. These men and women have sacrificed much for our country and are owed the highest levels of care and support upon returning to civilian life. However, the GUARD VA Benefits Act neglects a wide range of aspects that should be considered when putting forth such rules and regulations regarding the way our veterans seek VA benefits. While Congress’s best intentions are at the heart of this legislation, as written, it will unintentionally deprive many veterans of private assistance in preparing disability benefits claims, hindering their ability to receive that which they are owed.
While the Veterans Administration (VA) strives to provide the best possible care, it is widely acknowledged that they are plagued by a six-figure backlog that is actively endangering our veterans. Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) offer free VA claims preparation assistance, but many veterans have expressed difficulty navigating the system even with their help. While the intention of these VSOs is noble, it is clear that other pathways of assistance must be provided to our veterans.
A number of reputable private companies have stepped in to fill a gap in the marketplace, wherein veterans are simply not equipped to secure the benefits they deserve on their own or with the help of volunteer VSO representatives. Some private companies offer a full suite of support, including screenings, benefit eligibility counseling, and assistance in compiling all necessary information for the disability claims submission.
At the heart of the GUARD VA Benefits Act is a desire to protect veterans and ensure they receive the help they need. Unfortunately, this bill appears to criminalize reputable private companies, who are taking on a government bureaucracy on behalf of disabled veterans, just as companies like TurboTax are taking on the IRS on behalf of taxpayers. Veterans deserve the same level of outside support, should they choose to use it.
By proposing the GUARD VA Benefits Act, Congress is not allowing veterans to work with all veteran benefit providers, including private businesses, to reform the accreditation process and increase access to services for veterans. Further increase of the VA’s capability to enforce laws against exploitation and punish truly bad actors. However, labeling all for-profit companies “exploitative,” especially when many veterans can attest to the great support they have received when using their services.
Our veterans have given up so much to ensure the safety of our country and the protection of democratic ideals around the world. Americans, and the world, are better for their work and sacrifice. As the 117th Congress concludes, we hope that Congress will support our veterans by ensuring they have timely, effective access to health care and counsel, which can be achieved by increasing the breadth of this legislation and bringing reputable companies into the fold. Congress must reconsider this legislation, which contradicts the longstanding goal of fighting for our men and women in uniform.