Miller’s legislation follows lawsuit over sales of benefits advice
Iowa veterans will receive added consumer protection after Gov. Kim Reynolds signed Senate File 2200, which was proposed by the Iowa Attorney General’s office.
The bill prohibits anyone from receiving compensation for advising or assisting someone with veterans’ benefits or referring a person to an accredited veteran service representative. It also requires organizers of events or presentations on veterans benefits to disclose that the event is not affiliated with U.S. or Iowa departments of veterans affairs.
“Applying for veterans’ benefits is free, and Iowa veterans and their families should beware of advisers who are not accredited by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,” said Attorney General Tom Miller.
This bill passed the Iowa House on March 19 on a 96-0 vote and the Iowa Senate on April 2, 47-0. Reynolds signed the bill on Monday. The bill was managed by Sen. Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa, and Rep. Terry Baxter, R-Garner.
In February, Miller filed a lawsuit against a Chickasaw County business and its owner, alleging they deceptively claimed authority to provide paid veterans’ benefits assistance.
The lawsuit, filed in Polk County District Court, alleges Sonya Ackerson of Nashua and her business, Advocate 4 the Aging LLC, charged fees for veterans’ benefits assistance without being federally accredited.
Under federal law, the VA accredits those authorized to act as an agent, attorney, or representative of a VA-recognized veterans’ service organization to assist in preparing, presenting, or processing VA benefits claims. According to VA records, neither Ackerson nor her business is an accredited representative.
General Consumer Advice on Veterans Service Representatives and Organizations
Accredited veteran service representatives and veteran service organizations (VSOs) are trained to help veterans, as well as their families and advocates, understand and apply for any VA benefits they may be entitled to including compensation, education, vocational rehabilitation and employment, home loans, life insurance, pension, health care, and burial benefits. Additionally, they can help gather needed evidence for a VA claim and submit it.
The VA prohibits accredited advisers from charging fees to complete and submit VA paperwork. VA-accredited claims agents and attorneys may charge a fee for their services, but only after the VA has issued a decision on a claim, a notice of disagreement has been filed, and the attorney or agent has filed a power of attorney and fee agreement with the VA.
The VA maintains a list of VA-recognized organizations and VA-accredited people authorized to assist in the preparation, presentation and prosecution of VA benefit claims at www.va.gov/ogc/accreditation.asp