‘Claims Sharks’ taking advantage of veterans who are looking for help to file benefits

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Channel 2 Action News is looking into companies that are taking advantage of veterans by charging big fees to help them file for benefits.

Channel 2 consumer investigator Justin Gray has learned that a Georgia senator is now pushing for a federal investigation into the companies.

The companies have been nicknamed claims sharks.

Gwinnett County Navy veteran Yolanda Beavers said from the complicated paperwork to reliving trauma from her service, she put off filing for VA disability benefits for years.

“It’s a very intimidating process,” Beaver said. It’s almost something that you feel like you can’t really do by yourself.”

Then she was offered assistance with the claim. But it came with a catch and a cost.

A $2,500 upfront payment and 20% of her VA benefits.

“Immediately, my antennas went up and I was like, this is someone that I don’t feel has my best interests at heart,” Beavers said.

“These are called claim sharks. And they exploit veterans by charging exorbitant fees to file claims with the VA,” Georgia U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff said.

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Ossoff told Gray there has been a dramatic rise in so-called claims sharks since Congress increased eligibility for VA benefits in 2022. They call themselves benefits coaches or medical consultants., charging to file VA claims.

“It’s predatory. It’s wrong. And it needs to be stopped,” Ossoff said.

That’s why Ossoff and more than two dozen other senators sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking for an investigation and warning that “these fees may be as high as five times the monthly increase in benefits the veteran receives.”

A $2,000 monthly increase in benefits could result in a $10,000 bill for the veteran.

“Veterans are getting ripped off, plain and simple,” Ossoff said.

By law, only claims agents accredited by the VA listed on their website can file claims on behalf of veterans and they can’t charge for those initial claims.

“Why would I pay somebody for my trauma?” Beavers said.

Beavers quickly spotted the red flags and said no to the consultant, but worried for other veterans.

“They are taking advantage of people who possibly don’t have the skill set or the savviness to say no,” Beavers said.

Ossoff is asking the FTC to investigate. They can also levy penalties and refer cases to the justice department for prosecution.

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