In a recent op-ed for Stars and Stripes, David Cook, our Executive Director, shed light on a crucial issue faced by veterans: the complexities of navigating the VA benefits system. He emphasizes the need for Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) to rally behind the proposed PLUS Act, a critical piece of legislation that would accredit private organizations that aim to assist veterans in preparing and submitting their disability claims to the VA, all while protecting veterans from bad-players who seek to defraud them and take their money.
The PLUS Act, which stands for Preserving Lawful Utilization of Services for Veterans Act, seeks to address the bureaucratic hurdles that many veterans encounter when trying to access their entitled benefits. The onerous nature of the current VA system often leaves veterans overwhelmed and frustrated as they first attempt to decipher how to submit their claims and then wait months, even years, to actually receive the benefits they need and deserve.
Cook explains, “There are currently 1.1 million pending claims, each with an average wait time of 132 days. That’s roughly four and a half months for a basic claim. That is simply unacceptable — and our veterans deserve better. Love it or hate it, the VA’s status quo simply cannot continue, especially with the crises of mental health, homelessness, addiction, and the alarming rate of veteran suicides, averaging 16.8 deaths per day, which continues to afflict our nation’s heroes.”
Unfortunately, both politicians and several influential VSOs alike, have been playing politics and continue to fight the PLUS Act, citing that private companies are out to deceive veterans and steal from them. While there are “claims sharks” out there who deliberately take advantage of veterans in vulnerable situations, the PLUS Act provisions a system by which private companies must be accredited by the VA through rigorous vetting.
Cook suggests, “Let’s accredit these private companies, regulate them to protect veterans from the real sharks, and put newly accredited organizations under the jurisdiction of the VA for prosecution if they are, indeed, defrauding veterans.”
The op-ed underscores the role of VSOs in supporting the PLUS Act. The current system is not functioning properly and it is hurting the veterans it seeks to help. The sooner the VSO community comes together to back a sound regulatory framework, the sooner veterans can benefit from a system in which disability claims are processed efficiently and effectively, with steep penalties for those who seek to take advantage of America’s heroes. By rallying behind this legislation, VSOs have an opportunity to be catalysts for positive change, working in tandem to create a more accessible and responsive system for those who have served our nation. It’s time for a united front to ensure that navigating the VA benefits system becomes a smoother and more empowering journey for all veterans.
Please read the full article, HERE.