Veterans Disability Info Blog

Veterans Disability in the News: Analysis and Implications

Two of the most highly reported subjects concerning veterans in the news are the new benefits available to some veterans and their families through the PACT Act, and also scams that have been targeting veterans and military families. 

The PACT Act is Expanding Access to Benefits for Some Veterans 

In August of this year, 2023, the VA published the article “The Pact Act and your VA benefits” to provide information to impacted veterans. The PACT Act is a new law that has expanded VA health care coverage and benefits for veterans who have been exposed to Agent Orange, burn pits, and other toxic substances and materials. The PACT Act has added a list of additional health conditions that the VA assumes, or in their language to “presume”, were caused by exposure to the listed substances. 

The purpose of the PACT Act is to help the VA provide a number of generations of veterans and their survivors with the healthcare and benefits that they earned and deserve for their qualifying service. 

Survivors of Veterans are Also Eligible to Collect PACT Act Benefits 

If you are the surviving family member of a veteran, it is possible for you to be eligible for the following benefits: 

  • A monthly VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (VA DIC) payment – when you are the surviving spouse, dependent child, or dependent parent of a veteran who died from a service-connected disability, you can apply for VA DIC through the application here.
  • A one-time accrued benefits payment – you could qualify for this if you are the surviving spouse, dependent child, or the dependent parent of a veteran who was owed unpaid benefits at the time of their death. 

To collect accrued benefits following the passing of your veteran family member, you’ll need to provide the VA with evidence that proves the following: 

  • The VA owed the deceased claimant payments that were based on existing ratings, decisions, or evidence that the VA was in possession of when the claimant died, but the VA had not made those payments prior to the claimant’s death, and
  • The applicant is the surviving spouse, child, or dependent parent of the deceased veteran 

To apply you’ll need to submit the relevant evidence alongside the veteran’s DD214 or other separation documents, in addition to a copy of the veteran’s death certificate that shows their cause of death. Reimbursement claims for the beneficiary’s last illness and burial expenses can also be submitted, so long as they contain the appropriate details. 

It can be difficult to determine what benefits you are entitled to from the VA. If you are in the initial application process for benefits, you can generally reach out to a free representative from a service organization for assistance. When your claim reaches the point of an appeal, a VA disability lawyer can help you through every step of the appeal process. 

Scams are Increasingly Targeting Veterans and Military Spouses 

As reported by the Texas Tribune, the organization the VA Claims Insider has assisted hundreds of thousands of clients in navigating the complex process of applying for VA disability benefits. However, they are not actually authorized to assist veterans in the paid preparation of their disability applications as they are not VA-accredited. Organizations like this are increasingly promising to assist veterans in their disability applications, charging them high amounts of money without any qualification or right to do so. 

Non-Accredited Companies are Charging Veterans to Prepare Their Disability Applications

Despite the fact that charging veterans for the preparation of their initial VA disability application is prohibited, VA Claims Insider charged one veteran, a Navy veteran, nearly $10,000 for about 6 hours of coaching, some of which included watching pre-recorded online information sessions that had as many as 400 attendees at a time. While the veteran did ultimately begin to collect a monthly disability check of about $1,500, he believed that the information that he received for over 6 months’ worth of disability checks was available on the internet for free (or in a local law library). 

Only VA-accredited individuals are able to take money from veterans to assist them in appealing for their benefits. This is because VA-accredited individuals have Power of Attorney (POA) to represent veterans before the VA. These representatives are able to appeal  your claim on your behalf while interacting with the VA throughout the process. 

Despite the fact that there is accredited help available, there are a number of non-accredited companies out there taking advantage of veterans by charging unconscionable amounts and unauthorized fees. If you are not sure how to put your VA disability application together, you can reach out to the VA directly, whether online, over the phone, or through an in-person visit to your local VA center. 

Some Scams Offer Unauthorized Services for Illegal Payments 

Organizations like VA Claims Insider claim to not need to be VA-accredited as they are offering services that are not the same as those provided by the accredited agents or attorneys. Companies that seek to scam veterans by collecting improper payments oftentimes claim to offer “coaching” or “education” that helps the veteran through the process but at a cost. 

For example, VA Claims Insider states that “We can help. (Even If You’ve Already Filed, Been Denied, Gave Up, or Don’t Know Where to Start!)”. VA Claims Insider has a page that asks the question, “Is VA Claims Insider Accredited?”, and while the photograph on the page shows an image of a stamp that states “accredited”, the written answer to the question is in fact “No, VA Claims insider is not accredited.” 

VA Claims Insider states that it is “an education company, not a VSO, claims agent, or law firm.” While the information provided at a high cost is meant to walk the veteran through the claims process, VA claims insider states that the company “does not assist veterans with the preparation, presentation, and prosecution of VA disability claims for VA benefits.” These unaccredited organizations are offering the same types of services as VA disability lawyer when it comes to appeals and supplemental claims. However, they have no accreditation and may not even have the skills needed to accomplish what they claim to be capable of.  Frankly, it is ridiculous to compare these “coaches” whose education and training is unknown with the professional education of lawyers with years of law school, training, and licensure.  Lawyers have to obtain a Juris Doctor degree, pass the bar exam, and then do further training and education associated with accreditation with the VA.  Lawyers are regulated and governed by their State’s bar as well as the federal courts where they are barred, plus the VA’s Office of General Counsel, and are also subject to the Rules of Professional Conduct that apply a standard of ethics to their conduct.  There is no such requirement for training, education, licensure, and adherence to an ethical code for these unaccredited claims assistance companies.  It is the equivalent of allowing “dental coaches” to provide do-it-yourself dental services and somehow compare that to having your dental problems addressed by a licensed practicing dentist.

The other problem is that often these companies disparage the services of VSOs or attorneys.  They make claims like, “lawyers take too long” and they imply that they have some “inside” information that can fast-track the claim.  Such an implied claim is patently absurd as nobody has any special inside track with VA.  Lawyers or other accredited agents cannot control VA’s timeline for decisions, and if it is taking a long time a lawyer or accredited agent is not to blame.  Such delays are entirely on the part of the VA backlog.

VA Housing Loans and Mortgages are Being Targeted By Scammers 

As reported by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the CFPB, the CFPB itself shut down the mortgage loan business RMK Financial as a result of repeat offenses against military families. The organization was using VA seals and FHA logos in their advertisements without authorization and continued to do so following a 2015 CFPB order. The organization did business as Majestic Home Loans and is prohibited from engaging in any mortgage lending activities or receiving remuneration from mortgage lending. 

Despite the 2015 order from the CFPB to cease using VA and FHA logos without authorization, RMK continued to do so, while also issuing millions of mortgage advertisements to military families that were deceptive. The purpose of the unauthorized use of the VA and FHA seals was to deceive veterans and their families into believing that RMK was affiliated with the government. In addition to being banned from continuing to do business, RMK was also ordered to pay a $1 million penalty, deposited into the CFPB’s victims relief fund. 

RMK was using its deceptive advertising and false affiliation with the government to sell home loans. Additionally, RMK falsely misrepresented loan requirements and also lied about project savings from refinancing. To fraudulently motivate veterans and their families to purchase their products, RMK falsely stated that the benefits available through VA or FHA loans were time-limited. RMK also misrepresented the amount of monthly payments, annual savings under the loans advertised, and the cash available linked to the loans. 

Companies such as these are increasingly in the news for taking advantage of veterans. 

The Government Proactively Targets Scams, and Accepts Reports on Scammers

The CFPB engages in ongoing activities to prevent such companies from deceiving and taking advantage of veterans and their families. If you believe that you may have been the target of a scam, you are able to report it to the VA so that they can investigate, and potentially shut the company down as they had RMK. 

Consider Options with a VA Disability Lawyer 

If you believe that new benefits opportunities might apply to your disability, or that you have been the target of a scam, a VA disability attorney may be able to help. Determining what your rights are requires a consideration of your present situation, the underlying evidence, and what laws and statutes might apply. 
For PACT Act applications, for example, if you have a current condition that was not covered by the VA but now is given PACT Act changes, a VA disability lawyer can help you. If you have been the victim of a scan, a veteran rights attorney could also be of value in helping to protect your rights. At the end of the day, it is always best to choose professional representation with trained and licensed attorneys.  When something seems too good to be true, it often is.  Sometimes when you have a really difficult case, a trusted legal advisor, such as a VA disability lawyer, is the best way to go.  Call us today at 1-888-878-9350.

We are Here to Help

If you are having trouble obtaining benefits, contact us online or at 888.878.9350 to discuss your case.