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GUARD VA Benefits would protect veterans, reinstate criminal penalties

Rebecca Barnabi
commonwealth veterans day event

Current law prohibits unaccredited claim representatives, or “claim sharks,” from charging a fee for assisting a veteran in the preparation, presentation or prosecution of a VA benefit claim.

However, criminal penalties were eliminated from the statute nearly 20 years ago, limiting the VA and other federal agencies’ abilities to enforce the law.

The Governing Unaccredited Representatives Defrauding (GUARD) VA Benefits Act would reinstate criminal penalties and fee caps for unaccredited claim representatives, preventing these organizations from charging thousands of dollars for their services and protecting veterans’ access to their benefits.

The legislation, led by Sens. John Boozman of Arkansas and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, is cosponsored by Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC). cosponsored

“Our veterans deserve the benefits they’re entitled to, and it’s horrible that some veterans are being charged enormous fees by unauthorized businesses for help with the paperwork needed to access those benefits,” Kaine said. “This bill would hold these unaccredited claim representatives accountable and make it easier for veterans to access their benefits.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.