To help protect veterans from exploitation, Governor Phil Murphy today signed legislation (S-3292/A-3286) to establish standard requirements that must be followed if someone is seeking compensation for providing assistance or advice to veterans and their families regarding veterans’ benefits.
This applies to situations in which an individual assists with the preparation or representation of any claim for benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMAVA).
The legislation establishes the circumstances under which compensation may be sought in these situations; requires terms of service and compensation to be in writing; prohibits individuals from guaranteeing any specific result when offering their services; and requires individuals to disclose any affiliations they may have with the VA, DMAVA, or other federally chartered service organizations prior to entering into an agreement with the veteran or their family. Under the bill, any violation of these terms will be considered an unlawful act under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, which may result in monetary or other penalties.
“Our veterans put their lives on the line in service to our country and have more than earned the benefits for which they and their loved ones are eligible,” said Murphy. “We must protect veterans and their families from unscrupulous individuals who would take advantage of them by overcharging for assistance with those benefits. This legislation will help ensure these bad actors either follow all applicable federal standards or face the consequences.”
“Our Garden State Veterans, who exemplified honor and integrity during their service in uniform, rightfully deserve honest support from those who assist them in securing their hard-earned benefits. The New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs has federally trained and certified Veterans Service Officers employed throughout the state for the express purpose of providing free-of-charge help to Veterans navigating claims and appeals for state and federal benefits,” said Brig. Gen. Lisa J. Hou, NJDMAVA Commissioner and The Adjutant General of New Jersey. “In addition to our state offices, there are Federal VA offices and a number of volunteer organizations that also seek to help Veterans better understand and pursue their benefits and entitlements, providing a wealth of experiences and lessons learned free-of-charge. I encourage all New Jerseyans who have worn the uniform to connect with our VSOs by visiting http://www.nj.gov/military for a list of offices, or call us, toll free at 1-888-8N J-V E T S.
The bill is sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal and Assemblyman Joe Danielsen, as well as Senator Shirley Turner and Assemblymembers Sean Kean and Michele Matsikoudis.
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