A scam targeting veterans is picking up steam in Washington state. According to a group of consumer and veterans’ advocates dubbed the Aid & Attendance Project (A&AP), organizations with patriotic names but questionable aims are springing up all across the state.
These so-called patriotic financial advisors are offering to help veterans and/or their widows become eligible for Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) pensions and related programs such as Aid and Attendance. They promise to do so by repositioning a claimant’s assets, making the veteran appear to be impoverished and eligible for VA benefits. But the financial products and advice they’re hawking do little more than scramble the veterans’ financial worth and nest egg, while lining the advisors’ pockets with lucrative commissions.
In addition to purchasing financial instruments that are frequently not in their best interests, repositioning or hiding assets can often lead to trouble when veterans later consider applying for Medicaid benefits. Unlike the VA, Medicaid has a look-back period of 5 years and can impose a penalty or deny benefits after the transfer of assets through means such as gifting, trusts or the purchase of irrevocable annuities.
As if that wasn’t enough trouble, remember that the VA considers its pension program and its higher-level benefit of Aid and Attendance to be a need-based program for wartime veterans or their widows whose financial worth is $80,000 or less. As such, the VA considers it fraud if a person repositions or hides their assets to make themselves appear eligible for a program that was not intended for them. As a result, the veteran/widow can be left with significant legal issues.
According to the A&AP, these organizations also give out false information, suggesting they can speed things up with the VA process. But by its very nature, using the services of these organizations will prolong the claim, and in too many cases, the claim isn’t even filed.
To help combat this problem, accredited veteran service officers and members of A&AP in Washington state are reaching out to adult care facilities, veterans, and widows with information about the real benefits of these programs and the eligibility requirements. Unfortunately, they have described finding senior citizens on the verge of eviction from their homes when their promised benefits did not materialize in time. In several cases, seniors were billed for legal fees, which usually turned up after the veteran/widow did not purchase any products. If you had any problems like this, email the A&AP at VeteranFraud@gmail.com.
For more information or questions, call the VA hotline at 877-294-6380 or contact a national veteran service organization. The VA has an online application which is relatively easy to access, and you can contact the VA, American Legion, The Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs or the VFW directly for help. And best of all, remember their services are usually free.