PHOENIX – Attorney General Kris Mayes 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 Mayes and the coalition explained the passing of the bipartisan legislation would hold unaccredited and unregulated actors accountable for targeting and preying upon veterans who apply for federal VA benefits.
"Our veterans deserve access to the benefits they have earned without interference from unscrupulous individuals attempting to take advantage of them," said Attorney General Mayes. "I am proud to join my fellow attorneys general in urging Congress to pass this important legislation to protect veterans in Arizona and across the country."
Federal law requires anyone who assists veterans in preparing, presenting, or prosecuting claims to be properly accredited through the VA Office of General Council (OGC). However, in 2006, criminal penalties for violating those laws were removed, which left the OGC powerless to enforce the law against anyone except those who voluntarily followed the laws and became accredited.
Attorney General Mayes and the coalition said 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 the work, and the unaccredited actors may only answer questions or advise them.
According to Attorney General Mayes and the coalition, the unaccredited actors never contact the veteran once the veteran finishes the claim. On the other hand, accredited veteran service officers and claim agents do all of the required work and remain available to the veteran. Additionally, since unaccredited actors do not have access to VA claim files, some require the veteran to share system logins, passwords, or even bank account information so fees can be immediately withdrawn before the veteran even learns claim money has been deposited.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 Attorney General Mayes in submitting the letter are the attorneys general of Alaska, America Samoa, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, 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.