June 24, 2008
Jefferson City, Mo. - Attorney General Jay Nixon says some Missouri veterans or their widows may be paying fees to help them access veterans benefits, when that assistance is free from several government agencies and non-profit organizations.
Nixon says some insurance companies, so-called veterans benefits specialists and others offer assistance for a fee to veterans and their family members with filling out forms, contacting the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and helping determine what level of benefit may be available.
While it is not illegal to charge a fee for these services, Nixon reminds veterans and their families that there are a number of government agencies and non-profit organizations whose mission is to provide this assistance at no charge. Nixon says another risk is that the for-profit companies may give faulty advice about which benefits to apply for. That could cause consumers to be overpaid by the VA, which means they might have to repay money in the future.
"Although applying for veterans benefits may seem complex and intimidating, there are experts who can help consumers with this process," Nixon said. "Those experts don't charge a fee, and they're accredited by the VA. That means veterans and their families can count on them for good, accurate advice."
Some of the agencies that provide free assistance to Missouri veterans and family members:
|Missouri Veterans Commission||866-VET INFO (838-4636)|
|Disabled American Veterans||314-552-9883|
|Area Agencies on Aging||800-497-0822|
"The Missouri Veterans Commission and its service partners have a dedicated staff of over 70 accredited Veterans Service Officers (VSOs) located across the state. They are trained to help veterans, at no charge, obtain a full range of VA benefits," said Missouri Veterans Commission Executive Director Hal Dulle. "Our VSOs stand ready to help our veterans obtain the benefits they have earned."
Dulle says Missourians can locate the nearest VSO by calling the Missouri Veterans Commission at the toll-free number above.
In dealing with any non-accredited organization, Nixon and Dulle say to be suspicious of any company that says:
Consumers who have questions or complaints about products and services being offered to veterans can contact Nixon's Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-392-8222 or online at ago.mo.gov.