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Military veterans warned of benefit scam

Tribune-Review - 1/12/2019

Jan. 11--Veterans' affairs officials are cautioning military veterans to be aware of private contractors offering to process claims for them following the announcement that an Allegheny County woman was fined $10,000 for falsely holding herself out as an accredited veteran's services agent.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said agents from his office cited Kimberly Dunn and her company, Veterans Resource Solution LLC of Allison Park, with repeatedly misrepresenting her company's services with regards to benefit claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs and holding themselves out as accredited agents authorized to apply for benefits on behalf of veterans.

Shapiro said such practices are a violation of Pennsylvania's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.

Matt Zamosky, director of the Westmoreland County Department of Veterans Affairs, said veterans with questions about benefits should always talk with a veterans' services officer. Such officers are typically located at county and state offices as well as through veteran's organizations.

"We're not allowed to take money from veterans. We're not on commission and at least you will get the full story from us," Zamosky said.

Shapiro and his Office of Military and Veterans Affairs offered several suggestions to veterans seeking aid with benefit applications:

* Don't pay for a service that is free. There are many accredited claims agents within the Military and Veterans Community who are highly qualified to perform this service free of charge.

* Do research on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) website into the accreditation of a claims agent, if you are considering paying them a fee to process your benefits.

* Follow recommendations and referrals of fellow veterans who have had successful experiences filing VA benefit claims with specific veterans' service organizations. Always ask to see the representative's accreditation credentials.

* Work with only certified veterans service organizations with the relevant training these are listed on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website and include representatives of organizations such as: the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, county veteran affairs directors, and other organizations.

Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, derdley@tribweb.com or via Twitter @deberdley_trib.

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