Former VA Acting Secretary Peter O’Rourke Urges Members of the Louisiana House Of Representatives to Pass SB 159: Protecting Veterans’ Rights with the Preserving Lawful Utilization of Services Act

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, – May 6, 2024— Peter O’Rourke, former Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and current President of the National Association for Veteran Rights (NAVR), urges Members of the Louisiana House Of Representatives to pass Senate Bill 159 (SB 159), the Preserving Lawful Utilization of Services for Veterans Act. O’Rourke, a U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force Veteran, emphasizes that SB 159, sponsored by Senator Stewart Cathey Jr., is crucial for safeguarding the rights and choices of Louisiana’s Veterans.

“SB 159 unanimously passed the Senate, and the House should do the same. This bill is essential for protecting Veterans from unethical practices when applying for VA disability benefits,” said O’Rourke. “By eliminating upfront fees, mandating transparent fee structures, and prohibiting predatory solicitation practices, this bill guarantees that Veterans are not taken advantage of by bad actors seeking to capitalize on their vulnerabilities, while ensuring they have market autonomy in the disability claims process.”

O’Rourke underscores the importance of SB 159 mirroring federal efforts led by Louisiana Senator John Kennedy, which protects Veterans’ rights to choose and ensures a free market environment. “SB 159, like Senator Kennedy’s federal PLUS for Veterans Act, defends Veterans’ access to ethical free market options and imposes real penalties on bad actors,” he states. Identical legislation is also being pursued in a bi-partisan manner in the U.S. House.

O’Rourke highlights that SB 159 introduces comprehensive regulations aimed at safeguarding Veterans’ rights and ensures ethical practices in the provision of services related to their benefits matters. “This bill establishes strong guardrails with penalties for non-compliance by establishing guidelines that include fair compensation, prohibit unauthorized access to Veterans’ personal information, mandate transparent disclosure requirements, and impose penalties for violations, which aligns seamlessly with NAVR’s mission to promote ethical business practices and advocate for Veteran-owned businesses,” O’Rourke stated. “This legislation formalizes and professionalizes the VA disability claims assistance industry and provides Veterans with the assurance that their rights and choices are protected.”

In response to recent statements by opponents including various national Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), O’Rourke counters, “It’s essential to recognize that their stance fails to acknowledge the diverse needs of Louisiana’s Veterans or offers any effective solutions that protect Veterans’ rights. The status quo is not acceptable and inaccurate legal opinions only does harm to Louisiana Veterans that choose the assistance that best meets their needs.”

SB 159 received unanimous approval from the Louisiana Senate, was reported favorably out of the House Judiciary Committee, and is scheduled for consideration before the full House on May 7, 2024.

About NAVR:

The National Association for Veteran Rights (NAVR) is a national trade association committed to promoting ethical and transparent business practices among companies engaging with the service-disabled Veteran community. NAVR advocates for businesses that empower Veterans with professional and transparent solutions while advancing support for Veteran-owned businesses.

Additional Information:

U.S. Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) introduced the Preserving Lawful Utilization of Services (PLUS) for Veterans Act of 2023 to help Veterans access the greatest benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system by preserving their right to work with private groups when filing claims.

Representatives Jack Bergman (R-Mich.) and Lou Correa (D-CA) introduced the Preserving Lawful Utilization of Services (PLUS) for Veterans Act of 2023 in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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