On November 14, the founder and head of The Pels Law Firm Jon Pels participated in a press conference on Capitol Hill to shine a spotlight on the predatory practices of some veterans claims companies, which many of the speakers called “claim sharks.” Jon described his long-time trial practice, the filing by Pels Law of the first class action in the nation against one of the largest “claim sharks” organizations (pending in federal court in NC) and burying his mother above his father at Arlington National Cemetery this year. Jon spoke movingly about the illegality of the companies’ contradictory written statements contained in the documents they provide potential clients and the fraudulent fees such companies charge. Jon noted that if a company serving veterans were accredited, it would not be permitted to charge fees “off of the veterans’ backs.” He asked the audience, “Would you hire a lawyer, doctor or electrician who wasn’t accredited? Excessive fees and unauthorized practice must be stopped.” Jon is proud to stand with veterans’ organizations to “put claims sharks out of business.”

Jon’s remarks followed those of Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, who passionately condemned the activities of unaccredited “claim sharks” who take advantage of our nation’s veterans (and their surviving family members) and explained the need for passage by Congress of the protective Guard VA Benefits Act. Speakers also included representatives of the VIETNAM VETERANS of AMERICA, the Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars VFW (DAV), National Association of County Veterans Service Officers (VSO), Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Liz Hartman (a veterans’ advocate), Miranda Powell (a Navy veteran and student at GWU who described her personal experience with a company that “took away $8k of her benefits money” when she was transitioning out of the military), Danny Rodriguez (a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and current accredited service officer assisting veterans at no cost to obtain their VA benefits, and who described his experience with a “predatory agency who solicited him…to take away benefits that he had earned”), and Chasen Johns (a veteran and VA accredited attorney who assists veterans and described the accreditation process for those who wish to assist veterans).

Sen. Tester, Cong. Takano and other veterans’ representatives decried the “unscrupulous for-profit claim sharks” who “illegally charge fees” to our nation’s veterans and their loved ones to pursue initial veterans’ benefit claims. Injured veterans can avail themselves of the Veterans Administration (VA) free services rather than give a percentage of their veteran’s benefits to organizations who charge them fees to help them pursue their claims. The speakers reiterated that no one should have to pay to file a VA claim. The bipartisan Guard Act would reinstate criminal penalties to protect veterans and the benefits they earn. The speakers seek to make “claim sharks extinct” and abolish predatory practices that exist against veterans and their surviving family members.

Watch the video of Jon’s remarks: