April 26, 2023

Manchin Introduces Bipartisan GUARD VA Benefits Act

Legislation would reinstate criminal penalties for charging unauthorized fees while helping Veterans file benefit claims

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced the bipartisan Governing Unaccredited Representatives Defrauding (GUARD) Veterans Affairs (VA) Benefits Act to protect Veterans who are filing benefit claims from unauthorized fees and predatory practices. The legislation would reinstate criminal penalties for unaccredited entities who charge unauthorized fees for helping a Veteran file a disability claim.

“Ensuring our Veterans and their families receive the support they need and deserve is a top priority of mine,” said Senator Manchin. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to hold unaccredited individuals and businesses accountable for charging unauthorized fees while helping a Veteran file a claim. Earlier this year, I also introduced legislation to reissue benefits for defrauded Veterans and their families, and I will continue working with my colleagues across the aisle to pass these commonsense pieces of legislation for our nation’s heroes.”

Current law prohibits unaccredited individuals and businesses from charging a fee for assisting a Veteran in the preparation, presentation or prosecution of a VA benefit claim. However, the VA and other federal agencies are limited in their ability to enforce the law because criminal penalties were eliminated from the statute nearly 20 years ago. The Guard VA Benefits Act would reinstate criminal penalties for these predatory practices, which would include a fine up to $500, a term of imprisonment not to exceed two years or both.

Senator Manchin was joined as a cosponsor by Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Earlier this year, Senator Manchin introduced the Restoring Benefits to Defrauded Veterans Act, bipartisan legislation to require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to reissue misused benefits to a beneficiary’s estate in cases where the beneficiary predeceased reissuance.

The full text of the GUARD VA Benefits Act is available here.