TRENTON, N.J. – People seeking to profit from helping veterans find and receive their entitled benefits could soon face stiffer regulations under New Jersey law.
The Assembly on Friday advanced a bill (A3286/S3292), sponsored by Assemblyman Sean Kean and Assemblywoman Michele Matsikoudis, prohibiting excessive fees for advising or assisting with veterans benefits matters, and requiring parties to first agree to reasonable compensation terms.
“Any so-called professional who is guaranteeing disabled veterans, widowed spouses of veterans or their children government compensation when they may not even be eligible for certain benefits is clearly fraudulent. This legislation will discourage the bad actors out there who want to take advantage of service members and military families for personal financial gain,” Kean (R-Monmouth) said.
Federal law allows an attorney or veteran’s representative to charge a fee for preparing benefits paperwork or advising claimants filing for VA benefits. This legislation stipulates agents must follow federal law and cannot charge fees for referring veterans to others for assistance. Fees must also be conspicuously disclosed in writing and acknowledged.
“Navigating the web of bureaucracy that stands between veterans and their benefits is not only difficult, but it also makes veterans more likely to seek help from people who promise to cut through the red tape on their behalf in half the time,” Matsikoudis (R-Union) said. “New Jersey owes it to our veterans and military families to protect them from unscrupulous business practices that target their vulnerabilities and exploit their service to this nation and state.”
Anyone found to be in violation of the legislation would be committing consumer fraud and subject to fines up to $10,000 for a first offense and $20,000 for any subsequent offense.