STARS AND STRIPES: Vote to strip vets of our rights to seek help in filing claims? We’ll vote you out of office. by Travis Mills

May 23, 2024

Millions served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands were injured. Five survived quadruple amputee injuries. I was one.

I fought for our nation and paid dearly for it. And when I returned home to recover and rebuild, I fought for the life that my family deserved. Now, as an advocate for veterans and their families, I am fortunate to have a platform to speak on behalf of those quieter voices. I am concerned about legislation that recently passed right here in my own backyard in Maine (LD 2259), as it’s a version of the highly contested federal GUARD Act.  

Both bills eliminate private companies from the Department of Veterans Affairs disability industry, reducing the number of organizations and individuals able to help veterans as they prepare to file their VA disability claims. A new report from the Special Operations Association of America sheds light on how detrimental this will be to our nation’s veterans by highlighting the discrepancies between the VA-reported number of veteran service officers and the actual number of VSOs.

On average, nearly 39% of VSOs are listed multiple times. In some states it’s especially egregious, with 13 of the worst offending states listing over 70% of their VSOs more than once. Georgia is a prime example of this, claiming there are 780 VSOs in the state when there are 143. According to the SOAA report, “Nearly all VSOs claimed by American Legion and VFW are claimed as working for approximately 7 additional Veterans’ organizations. As a result, when Georgia provides the number of VSOs employed to assist Veterans with their claims, they are reporting 7 to 8 times more than are actually available.”  

I’m happy to report that a similar bill to the one that passed in Maine failed in Georgia. If it had passed, Georgia’s 678,000+ veterans would have been at the mercy of just 143 veteran service officers to help prepare their claims. That is more than 4,000 veterans per officer, with the number of claims climbing every day.  

To all my brothers and sisters who served, this year it’s crucial that we scrutinize veteran policies more closely than ever. Your rights and benefits are at stake. Many state legislatures are attempting to pass legislation that will strip you of your right to use tailored professional services to help prepare your VA claim in the name of “protecting you” from claim sharks. Pay attention to the federal GUARD Act, too. Note your state and federal representatives’ stances on this issue, and when you go to the polls in November, remember who voted to strip your rights away. Call for regulation on those taking advantage of veterans, but don’t forget to advocate for your own freedom to choose that you fought and sacrificed for in service to your country.  

Read more at Stars and Stripes