Protect Your Benefits: PACT Act Scam Warning
Since the passage of the PACT Act, also known as the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, many third-party companies have approached veterans and their families with offers to help them claim their benefits–for a price.
The Department of Veterans Affairs official site warns consumers that many PACT Act scams target veterans with bold claims and high fees. We’ll examine what to beware of below.
The Department of Veterans Affairs advises, “Veterans and survivors who think they might be eligible should apply for PACT Act benefits right now.” See the VA official site for more information on applications for PACT Act benefits.
Read more: How the PACT Act Changes VA Benefits
What is the PACT Act?
The VA official site describes The PACT Act as “one of the largest health care and benefit expansions in VA history.”
The PACT Act expanded eligibility for VA disability benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances in the line of duty in certain locations. More than 20 medical issues were added to the VA presumptive conditions list–this means that if you served in an area known for toxic exposures and/or burn pits, more medical conditions associated with them qualify for VA disability pay on a presumptive basis.
PACT Act Scams
Some see ads or get robocalls urging them to act “now” to claim expanded VA benefits, sue the government over water contamination at Camp Lejeune, or related issues. Some of these third parties (unaffiliated with the VA) may suggest that hiring them or using their services is the “only way” to claim expanded benefits, appeal a VA decision successfully, etc.
But there are rules as to what vets can be charged and when. Did you know that, according to the VA official site, “Only VA-accredited agents and attorneys may charge Veterans for assistance on their VA claim, and only when they provide assistance in connection with a proceeding after VA has made an initial decision on a Veteran’s claim.”
VA literature on this subject adds that no third party can legally charge you a fee for filing an initial VA disability claim. This is true for veterans and family members applying for VA benefits.
Read more: VA Benefits for Family Members, Survivors, and Caregivers
What The Department of Veterans Affairs Says About PACT Act Scams
The VA encourages all to apply directly for disability compensation, for updates to claims, or to contest a VA decision. Third parties offering to assist aren’t always scams, but the ones that are may “charge absurd fees or require you to pay a portion of your VA benefits.” The VA “will never charge” applicants to file claims, appeals, or other requests for VA services.
- Submit a VA disability claim in person at any regional office or with the VA online.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs offers to help you gather the evidence you need to support your claim.
- There are no costs to file a claim for VA benefits.
- Third party companies may not be recognized with VA. Use the VA Accreditation Search tool to see if the third party you have selected has VA recognition.
- The VA official site warns, “Do not sign a contract agreeing to pay an unauthorized company a fee to help you with your VA claim.” Why? Accredited Veterans Service Organizations and their agents can help you instead.
Reminder: The Department of Veterans Affairs is clear–ONLY VA-accredited agents and attorneys may charge for VA claim services. And such charges are only allowed when these attorneys or agents “provide assistance in connection with a proceeding after VA has made an initial decision on a Veteran’s claim.“
Do NOT pay a third party for filing a VA initial claim on your behalf, it is illegal to charge you for this service.
Have You Been Contacted?
If you have been contacted about filing a VA claim and worry about getting scammed, there is help available from the VA. Call them at 1-800-827-1000 to get clarification or learn if the company is legitimate.
Have you been approached by a company that uses predatory tactics? File a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Read more: How to Avoid Mistakes When Claiming VA Disability Benefits.
About the author
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.