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A Veteran’s Plea: The Hidden Costs of Over-Regulating Veteran Support

As a proud Air Force veteran, I’ve witnessed firsthand the tremendous sacrifices made by our nation’s heroes. Unfortunately, upon returning home, I experienced the harsh reality that many others face—long wait times at the Department of Veterans Affairs and challenges getting the assistance many of us need.

With over 1.2 million veterans residing in California, providing comprehensive care and support should be a top priority. Yet, Senate Bill 1124 (SB 1124), championed by Senator Menjivar, has the potential to eliminate the many services we depend on.

SB 1124 aims to create new strict penalties on any organization or private entity that assists a veteran with their VA disability benefits while not being accredited by the VA on the federal level. While trying to shield veterans from deceptive practices and bad actors is an admirable goal there are many unintended consequences of this proposed law, the largest being that it will cut off access to private firms’ that play a vital role in filling the gaps left by overwhelmed Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs). Often founded by fellow veterans, these companies offer personalized, comprehensive services tailored to our unique challenges–challenges that standard VSOs are unequipped to handle.

From mental health crises and suicide prevention to navigating complex disabilities, we require specialized assistance that only dedicated private professionals can offer. By labeling nearly all private sector involvement as inherently exploitative, SB 1124 attempts to dismantle this essential support network, leaving countless veterans stranded without the help we desperately need.

Jeremy Scherer, Air Force veteran & small business owner

The bill’s penalties, including potential misdemeanor charges for minor infractions, will undoubtedly discourage many well-meaning service providers from operating out of fear of severe legal consequences. This chilling effect will lead to a catastrophic reduction in our support and force veterans to rely solely on the already overstretched and understaffed VSOs.

We fought for our freedom; we deserve the freedom to choose who best understands and can advocate for our unique needs. The over-regulation suggested in SB 1124 robs veterans of the freedom to choose providers who properly address our specialized needs. The bill would leave innumerable veterans without access to the support and care they require.

Furthermore, California’s shameful veteran homelessness crisis underscores the systemic failure to provide sufficient resources for those who sacrificed everything for our country. Instead of expanding the support network to address this crisis, SB 1124 exacerbates this by further limiting our access to a diverse range of support services.

We deserve a framework that expands our support options, not restricts them. The argument that private service providers are merely profit-driven is a dangerous oversimplification that ignores the essential aid many of these companies provide. These private entities step in where the VA and traditional VSOs fall short.

As this bill is considered, legislators must carefully consider the full implications of their decisions on veterans’ services. Safeguarding us from predatory practices is crucial, but ensuring that valuable resources are not stripped away in the process is equally important.

After all, we are the brave individuals who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend this country. We, as veterans, deserve policies that not only express gratitude but also empower us with the freedom to manage our entitled benefits as we see fit. While SB 1124 claims to protect, our legislators must avoid unintended consequences that will restrict the very individuals it seeks to help. We are entitled to a policy that truly serves our interests of protection without compromising our autonomy or access to specialized assistance.

California, I implore you to listen to the voices of your veterans. Support us, don’t abandon us. Amend SB 1124 to safeguard our crucial lifelines.

Jeremy Scherer is an Air Force veteran and small business owner raising his family in San Diego County, California.