Where there is no consequence for illicit or reckless behavior, one can be sure to find individuals and organizations ready to prey on the vulnerable. It really is that simple and to answer the question as to why seeking legal advice from non accredited organizations puts veterans at risk for fraud and abuse, one can simply reply with human nature. Combine human nature with the profit incentive and you have yourself one recipe for abuse and fraud.
The Veteran’s Administration requires that any agent seeking to offer legal advice to veterans pursuing claims be accredited with the proper certifications. While it is true that the government does enjoy its bureaucracy and would happily create a new statute just for fun of it, this is one aspect of the United States Code that I wholeheartedly support. If I can borrow a few minutes of your time, I would like to show you the risk and hopefully guide you towards an accredited source of legal advice before you make a mistake that can’t be undone.
Recognize the Potential For Abuse In The Industry of Goodwill
First, let’s cover the human nature element of it all. You see, when it comes to the industry of goodwill that can include charitable giving, human service organizations, and veteran service organizations, there exists a certain naivety as to the scope of the great. “Who would steal from sick children” or “who would even dare take advantage of a disabled veteran” are common assumptions. The only problem is that you’ll find examples of such dastardly deceit from sea to shining sea in the nonprofit community.
It could be something as simple as a small organization’s bookkeeper siphoning funds for her own use. Where there is a dollar to be made, there is a dollar to be stolen. Friends, there is a good deal of money to be made offering legal counsel to veterans pursuing disability claims. Now, in a free market economy, this is right and just. Fee for services when done in an ethical manner is how many veterans actually get their claims approved.
The problem is the lack of consequence for non accredited organizations when they fail through negligence or malicious intent. It is far too easy to simply, “blame the VA” when a claim is denied and in the meantime, the veteran has already paid the money for the service. For non accredited organizations, there is no consequence for that behavior. Look, I’m not saying that every organization that is non accredited will take advantage of veterans. There is some legitimate good help out there. However, for every case of a claim approved by a non accredited organization, I’ll show you plenty of claims denied in return. It is just not worth the risk.
Understand The Purpose of Each Organization
To be clear, the team here at Valor 4 Vet does not provide legal advice. They do not try to do so or even remotely indicate that this is their purpose. This organization exists for the singular purpose of providing medical expertise to veterans, service officers, and attorneys. The attorneys and veteran advocates that reach out to Valor 4 Vet are the ones who are going the extra mile and pursuing every effort to substantiate their clients’ claims. By and large, attorneys and veteran advocates who are only consumed with maxing billable hours do not reach out. That’s because the team here provides medical solutions for claims and it is remarkably difficult to bill more hours to a problem that has already been solved.
Now, don’t take that to mean any attorney or advocate who doesn’t work with us has ill intent. Unfortunately, there are plenty of good attorneys and veteran advocate organizations who have never heard of Valor 4 Vet. Rather, take that as a call to action on what to look for when pursuing legal counsel or advocacy for your claim. The VA accreditation program code of conduct requires that all accredited agents “faithfully execute their duties on behalf of a VA claimant” as well as “act with reasonable diligence and promptness.”
Accredited agencies and attorneys frequently reach out to us as a means to faithfully adhere to that code of conduct. Should your accredited agent fail to pursue due diligence, then you have the ability to file a complaint. If you are working with a non accredited organization, your only recourse is to leave a negative review on Google that the organization can likely get removed anyway. Truth be told, a non accredited agent should not be offering you legal advice in regards to your claim, but that doesn’t stop them from doing so.
Where Non Accredited Organizations and Agents Tend to Lurk
Finally, let’s talk about where predatory organizations tend to lurk and find their clients/victims. Remember, I’m not saying that every organization or agent who is not accredited is predatory. I’m just saying that predatory organizations avoid accreditation like the plague, because with accreditation comes consequences for that behavior. . So tread carefully where such organizations lurk and without a doubt, they lurk online in large numbers.
From Facebook groups to online chat forums, snake oil salesmen will promise to get your claim approved or increase your rating. They rarely offer services on a flat fee basis and the sky is the limit for how much it could wind up costing you. By comparison, Valor 4 Vet offers flat fee rates. That means you or your attorney knows exactly what it is going to cost for our service and either it makes sense for your claim or it does not.
With many of these online advocate claims, you really don’t know what you are getting for your money other than a promised outcome. Keep in mind, there are no consequences for non accredited organizations when they don’t deliver. Moreover, many of these organizations will feign accreditation when, in fact, they are not. That’s why it is always a good idea to check for accreditation status here at The Department of Veteran Affairs Accreditation Search Tool. As for my experience and what I observe among the broader veteran community, there is just little sense in risking your money and claim experience to a non accredited individual or organization.
Veteran Fraud and Abuse in the Modern Era
For better or worse, the post GWOT era saw the rapid proliferation of veteran nonprofits, service organizations, and online communities. In many regards this trend has been generally positive, but due to the large numbers, separating the real deal from a scam is easier said than done. So look, if you are a non accredited agent or organization genuinely wanting to help your fellow veterans, I’m sorry for the bad rap I’m pitching here. However, my greater concern is that some elderly Korean War vet loses his life savings to some “Nigerian Prince” who promised to get his claim approved and send him half his fortune. If you really care that much, pursue accreditation.
I’m also going to be 100% with my fellow veterans right now. In many cases, the person perpetrating the fraud is themselves a veteran. A sad reality that you know is true if you think back to your time in service. There was always that one guy with sticky hands or the one guy who would screw over the company and get your libbo revoked for his dastardly behavior. Veterans represent a cross section of America and unfortunately, low character individuals make it in as well.
So please also be wary that an agent claiming to be veteran is not a guaranteed seal of approval. Moreover, the internet has made electronic stolen valor more prevalent. So there is still a chance that the individual is not even a veteran or at best, the recipient of a bad conduct discharge. The accreditation process checks more boxes and answers more questions than a photo of that agent in uniform from 20 years ago. I’d go so far as to say that not a day goes by without a veteran getting taken advantage of in some capacity. Don’t be one of them.
A Summary Call for Accountability
Sadly, human nature dictates that those seeking to fraudulently or negligent represent veterans will not go away. There is still a dollar to be made and as such, like moths to the flame they will come. There is a proposed bill in Congress that would seek to hold these non accredited groups more accountable. This too I wholeheartedly support. In the meantime, I would encourage every veteran to partner with groups that have skin the game via the accreditation process. Use the search tool above if you have any questions about an individual.
In the meantime, we continue the call for accountability as that is the business that we are in on a daily basis. Again, we are not legal advisors but we seek to hold his nation accountable for the mental and physical toll it placed on its veterans. When our medical experts are conducting an exam or writing a Nexus report, it is with this accountability on the forefront of their minds that Valor 4 Vet operates.
Accountability does not have to have a negative connotation. Our veterans are entitled to these benefits and they have earned them with their sacrifice. That the claims process is long, litigious, and complicated is just a speed bump to that accountability. Veterans should never feel ashamed to pursue this accountability on behalf of themselves, but also for the veterans that will come generations down the road. If Valor 4 Vet can be of any assistance to you, never hesitate to reach out. Accredited attorneys and service officers from sea to shining sea seek our medical advice and we too want to be held accountable for our results.
***UPDATE September 9, 2021: The Department of Veteran Affairs now recommends filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission when combating non accredited representatives or organizations seeking compensation for assisting with compensation or pension claims.