OpEd: The VFW is fighting to protect RI Veterans from VA Claim Sharks

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At the beginning of the Rhode Island General Assembly’s 2024 legislative session, the Rhode Island Department of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States asked Chairman Samuel Azzinaro and Chairman Walter Felag to introduce legislation to protect Rhode Island’s veterans and their survivors from for-profit, predatory, “claim sharks.” As a result, S. 2700 (Felag) and H. 7609 (Azzinaro) were introduced and referred to the Senate Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs Committee and House Corporations Committee. Hearings were held in the spring for both bills. I provided both written and oral testimony to each committee. These hearings were recorded and are available for viewing on Capitol TV.

Letters of support for S. 2700/H. 7609 were obtained from the United Veterans Council of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Office of Veterans Services, the Attorney General of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, Operation Stand Down Rhode Island, and the law firm of Chisholm, Chisholm, and Kilpatrick. Now, Rhode Island’s veterans are waiting for each bill to be considered by committee members, passed out of committee recommending passage, and approved by the members of the Senate and House. The VFW is hopeful that Gov. Daniel McKee will be signing S. 2700/H. 7609 into law this year. Rhode Island veterans should not have to wait until a future legislative session to be protected against for-profit, predatory, claim sharks.

Bipartisan legislation like S. 2700 and H. 7609 has been passed in other states such as New Jersey, New York, and most recently Maine and Illinois. The VFW National Legislative Service led by Director Patrick Murray, a Rhode Islander from North Kingstown, has been conducting a nation-wide campaign to pass legal protections against claim sharks in every state. These legislative efforts are being opposed by the growing for-profit, predatory, claim shark industry and their industry trade groups. These groups have spent over a million dollars for lobbyists to oppose the passage of the GUARD VA Benefits Act of 2023 in the U.S. Congress. They have made their appearance here in Rhode Island this legislative session.

The end of the 2024 legislative session is in a few weeks. The VFW and its allies in the veteran community within Rhode Island are fighting for the passage of S. 2700/H. 7609. You can help by contacting your elected officials in the General Assembly and letting them know that you want these bills passed this year.

The VFW Department of Rhode Island’s VA-accredited service officers are standing by to help Rhode Island veterans with their VA benefits claims. Contact Department Service Officer Stephen Boland by phone at (401) 223-3689 or email at [email protected].

Matthew McCoy

Matthew McCoy is a retired naval officer, member of the North Kingstown Town Council, and the National Legislative Committee member for the VFW Department of Rhode Island.

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