U.S. Senator Marco Rubio today introduced The Protect Our Disabled Heroes Act of 2011, a bill to protect our nation's disabled veterans from unethical and unfair practices in applying for Veterans Administration (VA) disability claims.
If enacted, Rubio's legislation, which is a companion to Congressman Gus Bilirakis' (FL-09) House proposal, would protect disabled veterans from unethical fees charged by third party organizations in preparing and executing veterans disability claims. It would also reinstate criminal penalties for individuals charging veterans unauthorized fees.
Since the creation of the VA, numerous independent Veteran Service Organizations have assisted veterans in filing disability claims free of charge. However, many veterans are unaware that such services should be provided at no cost and instead seek assistance through attorneys and organizations that charge a filing fee.
The bill's original co-sponsors include Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Roy Blunt (R-MO). In making today's announcement, the following statements were issued:
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL): "We should do everything possible to honor the men and women who have served our country, and one way is to protect them against predatory practices used against them while securing disability benefits. Our veterans deserve better, and we need to punish those who prey on the heroes who have returned home."
Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL): "I can't think of too many things as low as preying on our veterans. That's why we need to toughen the penalties on anyone found to be involved in that kind of a scheme."
Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO): "Our nation's disabled veterans are American heroes who have made incredible sacrifices to protect our freedoms. We owe them a great debt of gratitude and they deserve the very best care our country can provide. That's why I'm proud to cosponsor this bill, which will help protect disabled veterans from fraudulent scams and unfair fees."
Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL): "This hole leaves the door open for fly-by-night companies and con artists to take advantage of veterans, and this crooked practice must be stopped. I commend Florida's Senators for introducing this legislation, and encourage the Senate to act quickly to ensure that veterans can receive unhindered access to the services and benefits they have earned."