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Shaheen Leads Letter Urging FTC to Investigate Predatory Practices Targeting Veterans Who File for VA Benefits

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the U.S. Armed Services Committee, today led twenty seven of her Senate colleagues in sending a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urging the agency to investigate entities that may be violating federal law by charging veterans exorbitant fees when they file for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits. The letter can be read here

The Senators wrote, in part: “Filing for benefits through the VA can be a time-consuming and complex process. Veterans often seek help in trying to obtain benefits, and unscrupulous people can prey on veterans by charging very high fees or demanding a percentage of the increase in benefits[…] In February 2023, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the VA said “there has been an influx of predatory advertisements, which purport to help Veterans—often through the guise of “medical consulting” or “benefits coaching”—submit their initial claims to the VA for a fee.” The CFPB and VA noted that “unauthorized assistance in claim preparation is illegal” and said that “[w]e have heard reports that unscrupulous actors have misled some veterans into paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal fees.” 

The Senators continued: “We believe the actions of unaccredited coaches luring veterans into paying excessive fees for assistance may violate a number of federal statutes, including Section 5 of the FTC Act that bars unfair and deceptive practices. Given the limitations of the VA’s authority to regulate effectively this market and gaps in state enforcement, we believe other agencies must step in and use their authority to protect veterans from unaccredited coaches and consultants filing claims for benefits.” 

Shaheen’s letter urges the FTC to do the following:   

  • To use its Section 5 authority along with any other relevant statutory powers to investigate the VA benefits coaches and consultant's market.  
  • To use its authority pursuant to Section 6(b) of the FTC Act to assess the practices of benefits consultants, coaches and others claiming to help veterans obtain benefits from the VA.  
  • To publish a report that includes findings and legislative and regulatory recommendations at the conclusion of the investigation.  
  • To work with the VA, Department of Justice (DOJ), CFPB and other relevant federal stakeholders on any other means to protect veterans 

The letter is signed by U.S. Senators John Fetterman (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Angus King (I-ME), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Gary Peters (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bob Casey (D-PA) Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Jack Reed (D-RI).