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AARP's Resources for Veterans and Military Families Skip to content

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Caregiving, Fraud Support for Veterans and Military Families

AARP's Troy Broussard talks with Bob Edwards about resources that are available

Soldiers standing in line with the American flag in the background.

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Bob Edwards: Hello, I'm Bob Edwards with an AARP Take On Today. About 23 million people have served in uniform in the United States but it's estimated less than half are utilizing the Department of Veterans Affair's services. A number of benefits exist for veterans and their loved ones, but there are some that may be overlooked. We detail some of these underutilized resources available to veterans. Also, be on the lookout. Imposter accounts on Facebook pose threats to our veterans. A fake account masqueraded as the Vietnam Veterans of America prompted four members of Congress to ask the FBI to investigate all Facebook groups.

But first, for many Memorial Day means it's the beginning of the vacation season, public pools open, barbecue grills are cleaned off, and summer deals commence. Our rush to get away can often overshadow the true meaning of the holiday, remembering and honoring the people who have died while serving their country.

Today we're joined by AARP Louisiana's Troy Broussard who focuses on strengthening AARP's veteran outreach and supporting Americans aged 50 years and older. Troy, a veteran himself, served six years with the Louisiana Army National Guard and during Operation Desert Storm. Thanks for joining us Troy.

Troy Broussard: Hello, how are you today Bob? It's a pleasure to be here.

Bob Edwards: Tell me about your work at AARP.

Troy Broussard: I'll be more than happy to. I'm currently the Associate State Director for Advocacy and Outreach based here in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I'm a native of Louisiana as well. I've been in this role since December of 2016 and prior to that I worked for the last 20 years with staff volunteers and members of other AARP divisions. And our focus is to have the value goals of nearly 480,000 members here in Louisiana, and I work to build greater grassroots and key contacts with relationships with our local elected officials to ensure that we have the voice, the voices are heard of those 50 plus population here in Louisiana.

Bob Edwards: In addition to your role as Associate State Director for AARP Louisiana you're also very focused on veteran-related programs. What unique issues are vets or their families facing today?

Troy Broussard: Bob, that's a great question. You know, transitioning to civilian life after living on a closed military environment where job, medical insurance, even clothing and food are all determined for military soldiers. The Department of Veteran Affairs, they are great at providing health care, home loans, GI Bill and other benefits like that, but less than 50% of veterans are aware of all the benefits they're eligible to receive. That's an issue. Many seek a purpose after the military that matches their military service. In other words, veterans are looking for that second mission after completing that initial mission of service.

Bob Edwards: Why is caregiving such an important issue for this community?

Troy Broussard: You know, Bob, there's an estimated 5.5 million military caregivers in the United States, those are folks that are caring for those that are wounded, ill, injured military service members or veterans, and 1.1 million are caring for post 9 11 veterans. And compared to civilian caregivers, our military caregivers often have to cope with combat-related issues, like traumatic brain injury, or post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety which would separate them from non-military personnel.

Bob Edwards: Probably a lot of physical therapy too?

Troy Broussard: A lot of physical therapy as well from injury-related wounds from combat, and also military caregivers are often overwhelmed with options and information sources. With more than 45,000 non-profits serving veterans here in the United States, they can find it very difficult to determine which organization or program best meets their needs.

Bob Edwards: Now how does AARP support caregivers? What resources are out there?

Troy Broussard: Here at AARP we're focused on educating and connecting family caregivers to tools and resources that can help them care for their loved ones and themselves as well, most importantly. Advocating to make it easier for people to live independently in their homes and communities where they prefer to be. Some of the main resources is called our AARP Family Caregiving which provides an easy way to join an online community of caregivers where they can learn about local services right in their neighborhood, get helpful information, and connect with others who truly understand those caregiving challenges. So I would recommend folks go online to Caregiving Tips for Benefits for Veterans, that's one. And then Tips for Veterans and their Caregivers for Exploring VA Benefits and Services. Those are the main ones that I would recommend that folks can from an online perspective.

Bob Edwards: What are their options regarding caregiving and which ones do you feel are underutilized?

Troy Broussard: I find the one that's very much so underutilized would be the one that's Caregiving Tips for Finding Benefits for Veterans. You know, many times when we get out, the transition process is very, very awkward. What happens sometimes is when you leave a military installation, there's normally a 30 minute or so explanation of benefits, and then you're transitioned out and moved to your civilian life. So for me from a caregiving perspective, Caregiving Tips to Finding Benefits for Veterans is very, very important Bob.

Bob Edwards: Have any stories stuck with you?

Troy Broussard: Oh, you know there's one in particular if you don't mind I would love to share. It was a member whose husband served as a post 9 11 veteran and suffered from post-traumatic syndrome, PTSD. He was unable to work due to trauma from serving and she was really at her wit's end for lack of a better term. She was able to utilize some of these online resources and get assistance through our AARP Family Caregiving. That online community was able to connect her to people that could listen to her, understand what she's coming from a caregiving military background, and she was able to assist, provide some very needed resources for her husband and she was so gratified and thankful for that. Those are the types of stories that just lets us know that we're doing the right work and we're in the right location to make it happen for these caregivers.

Bob Edwards: AARP recently launched Operation Protect Veterans. Tell me about that.

Troy Broussard: Oh wow, very excited to tell everyone about this. We're working with the United States Postal Inspection Service to raise awareness about these common scams that target America's military veterans through Operation Protect Veterans. The goal is to engage people to watch for suspicious solicitations that target military veterans and then report it. Here are a couple of examples of the veteran scams that are out there. They want to hear about the suspicious emails, phone calls, or traditional mail that target veterans specifically. You're able to share with community members so they can report scams, protecting the veterans, military and their families, and there's even a toll free 1-800 number that you can dial so that you can report it directly which is fantastic.

Bob Edwards: I bet you've got some stories about that too?

Troy Broussard: Oh wow, yes. One that comes to mind is a ... In the veteran community, there's certain words that us as veterans, that we share, that is synonymous through whatever brand of service you spent time in. One would be MOS which is your Military Occupational Specialty, or your job, DD Form 214, and that's your official record of service in the military. So there's a veteran that I met at a local event and he mentioned that he was scammed by someone that called him and said, "Hey, I'm with this particular non-profit organization, or this group, and we're raising money for veterans." And he used all the right quotes here. "I need a copy of your DD Form 214, could you tell me what date you started?" So by asking those particular type questions, that gained authenticity for the individual who was calling.

He went on ahead and provided information to this caller and then the caller then came with the big ask for his bank account information so he can transfer money directly to support other veterans who had similar issues like he has, you know, concerns. And this person here was actually scammed. His bank account was completely cleaned out and lost a lot of money and most importantly, lost some pride, because as a veteran we have pride. So I would definitely recommend that folks take a look at our Operation Protect Veterans and report these types of scams and be wary for people that are asking you for money, for your bank account information as well.

Bob Edwards: Where can listeners learn more about veteran-related scams?

Troy Broussard: Absolutely. You can go to aarp.org/veterans for more information as it relates to fraud watch and Operation Protect Veterans. That's a great way to find out the most recent and uplifting scams that you can work together to make sure you don't become a victim too.

Bob Edwards: Man, there's a warm place somewhere for these people, you know?

Troy Broussard: You know Bob, on Thursday I'm going to do something we call a Veteran Stand Down, and that's to really assist our veterans who's hurting right now, who's homeless, and have some major issues. So I'm going to be there on Thursday and I wish I had this call after that because I can assure you I will hear more stories of veterans being abused. Folks that have went out there and fought for our country have to come back and be the targets of scams.

Bob Edwards: Yeah, if you get any good stories, let us know.

Troy Broussard: No, no, I will definitely do that and I tell you, it's work that I'm so proud that AARP has stepped up and I'm very proud to be a part of it to help our fellow veterans so we can just provide information and I want to thank you guys here for doing this. This is awesome.

Bob Edwards: Thanks for joining us.

Troy Broussard: Thank you so very much.

Bob Edwards: About 23 million people have served in uniform in the United States but it's estimated less than half are utilizing the Department of Veterans Affair's services. A number of benefits exist for veterans and their loved ones but there are some that may be overlooked. To attract more veterans to the services available to them, the VA has simplified the design of their website. Now, vets and their loved ones can more easily discover these benefits, apply for them online, and even track progress of their applications. Benefits such as prescriptions can also be managed on the site.

Some underutilized benefits available to veterans include caregiving resources, home loans, life insurance, and pension support. There are also a variety of resources for family caregivers including a helpline, peer mentoring, online workshops, or the VA's comprehensive financial assistance program.

Members of Congress asked the FBI to investigate certain groups that are targeting veterans on Facebook by posing as veteran service organizations. The issue came about when Vietnam Veterans of America or VVA became aware of an imposter account using its name and logo in August 2017. The fake Facebook page had a quarter of a million followers by the time it shut down, more than the organization's official account. Along with the risk of spreading misinformation, and luring veterans into making false donations, the imposters have the potential to steal bank account information and build up debt in a victim's name.

It's also important to note that there's an added security risk since some veterans hold security clearances. For the VVA, it took about four months until it was able to successfully take down the first fake page it encountered in 2017. But in February 2018 it realized the same entity, which it said was based in Bulgaria, had set up two other pages. In order to protect yourself from imposter Facebook groups, you can review the date and source of links you see on social media pages. If the date is missing or old, that could be a warning sign. Look for a gray verification badge next to the group's name. It confirms that the page is authentic for a business or an organization. Go directly to the organization's official website and follow the link to its social media accounts.

For more information on AARP's veteran's benefits and services, visit aarp.org/veterans.

For more, visit aarp.org/podcast. Become a subscriber and be sure to rate our podcast on Apple Podcast, Google Play, Stitcher, and other podcast apps. Thanks for listening. I'm Bob Edwards.

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On this week’s episode, AARP’s Troy Broussard discusses important caregiving resources for veterans and their families and a new campaign aimed to protect veterans from fraud.

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