Under the PACT Act, U.S. veterans who have become ill due to toxin exposure during service in the Gulf War, Post-9/11, and Vietnam service can now file a claim for VA benefits. Veterans seeking PACT Act benefits fall victim to a flood of predatory companies looking to profit.
You’ve likely seen the deluge of TV commercials, pop-up ads, and online posts fraudulent companies are using to pull profits—ads mentioning burn pits, Camp Lejeune, Red Hill, cancers, infertility, Parkinson’s disease, birth defects, kidney disease, and other health conditions that the PACT Act covers.
These scammers claim they can help you file PACT Act your VA benefits claims. The catch? They are charging veterans outrageous fees to “assist” with PACT Act VA benefits claims, many having little to no experience with the complex VA claims process involved in winning benefits.
Thousands of veterans are denied benefits yearly after paying illegitimate consulting companies for assistance with their claims. A denied claim can cost a veteran years of delays and appeals; years the veteran could have been receiving monthly payments had they not been scammed by an ill-equipped, inexperienced PACT Act consulting firm.
The Department of Veterans Administration (VA) also offers to assist with PACT Act benefits claims. But be aware that the VA is not going out of its way to help veterans maximize the benefits they are legally owed. In many cases, having the VA assist you with your claim will not necessarily produce favorable results.
If you are a veteran who may be eligible for PACT Act benefits, it is crucial to submit a solid VA claim from the start. Veterans who seek assistance in filing claims for VA benefits are smart. They want it done right the first time. But veterans must ensure that the firm they chose to assist them meets the following three criteria:
- is not charging outrageous and unfair fees,
- is not biased toward VA objectives, and
- has the knowledge, experience, and credibility required to prove to the VA that a veteran is eligible for PACT Act benefits.
Tips For Avoiding PACT Act Scams
If you are a veteran seeking assistance to file a claim for VA benefits under the PACT Act, take a moment to review the following tips before making your choice.
Valid credentials: Only VA-accredited attorneys and agents can legally charge veterans for VA claim assistance, and then only after an initial denial. Nobody should be charging you to complete an initial application for a claim.
Track record: Verify that the service or company you choose to assist you with your VA claim is a licensed attorney specializing in veterans’ legal representation. Specifically, the firm should have extensive experience winning hard-to-prove cases (not just presumptive list cases) involving illnesses caused by toxin exposure. Proving cases involving toxin exposure requires significant experience with medical documentation, evidence gathering, and expert witnesses. The firm you hire should also have significant U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims experience, demonstrating the knowledge, resources, and confidence required to optimize your VA benefits claim.
Consultation fees: Scammers may ask for a lump-sum fee upfront for their assistance. Most legitimate VA-accredited attorneys offer free consultations, offering a free review of your claim. This free consultation is an opportunity to ask these professionals any questions you may have up front, learn the potential outcome of your claim, and learn whether your claim is straightforward enough to pursue on your own.
Legal Fees: Most legitimate VA-accredited law firms will not charge any fees upfront. Instead, they collect a reasonable fee once you win your VA benefits and receive your payments. Check your agreement before signing to see what percentage you will be charged.
Review agreements: Never sign an agreement for VA claims assistance without understanding what services you agree to and what fees may be involved for those services. The company should be willing to answer all your questions about any legal fees you will be paying. A veterans’ benefits lawyer can help you review any agreements you have questions about. Keep copies of any documents you sign.
No fees out of ongoing monthly checks. You should not be paying fees continually out of your future ongoing monthly checks. Beware of any company that seeks to do this.
Medical consultants charging huge contingency fees. Sometimes these companies will offer to provide a nexus letter. But instead of charging you a modest upfront fee, which is the legal and ethical way to do it, they make you pay a large percentage of back pay. This means that you end up paying tens of thousands of dollars for a medical report that should have cost no more than $1,500.
Don’t click on emails, ads, or social media posts you are not certain are safe. Make sure you work only with legitimate licensed and accredited VA benefits lawyers.
Remember, Camp Lejeune Justice Act litigation is not a VA-related process. Camp Lejeune cases are a separate tort claim. Click here to learn how to collect compensation for illness caused by exposure to Camp Lejeune contaminated water.
If you suspect a company is attempting to scam veterans for profit, file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. If you feel that you or someone you know has fallen victim to a PACT Act VA benefits scam, contact the VA Office of Inspector General.
For accurate, effective, and credible assistance with your PACT Act benefits claim, seek the advice of a qualified veterans attorney.