WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rep. Greg Stanton today announced legislation to make it easier for veterans to apply for and receive benefits through accredited attorneys, agents and veteran service organizations. The legislation originated from concerns Stanton heard from his Veterans Advisory Committee.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that our veterans have access to the care and benefits they have earned. Unfortunately, antiquated systems at the VA have made it needlessly difficult for veterans to find and contact accredited claims agents,” Stanton said. “I’m proud to introduce legislation to modernize the VA’s accreditation information.”
Federal laws and regulations require individuals to be accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of General Counsel to assist a veteran with benefits claims. The VA maintains a database of accredited attorneys, claims agents and veterans service organizations (VSO) representatives, which it claims to update three times a week. But when Stanton’s office called through 100 phone numbers listed for accredited attorneys and claims agents here in Arizona, less than half were currently accredited and practicing. Inaccurate or inaccessible information isn’t just frustrating and time-consuming for veterans and their families—it also creates openings for unaccredited, for-profit organizations to take advantage of veterans in need of assistance.
The Accurate VA Accreditation Information Act would:
- Require the VA to remind recognized individuals or organizations to update their contact information once per year and to update the public database accordingly.
- Create a certification symbol for recognized individuals to use on websites and other promotional materials. This would help veterans more easily differentiate between those who are legitimately accredited by the VA and those who are not. The Act also requires the VA to establish civil penalties for misuse of the certification symbol.
- Require the VA to submit an annual report to Congress listing the requirements that individuals must meet to be recognized to prepare, present, and prosecute claims before the VA—plus what information VA gathers on each person and how VA verifies that information for accuracy.
The legislation is endorsed by the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars of Arizona and Disabled American Veterans. Full bill text is available here.