Senior veterans need to be alert for scams and financial abuse targeting them. In our December 2011 visit we explained how the Aid & Attendance benefits for vets provide assisted living and nursing home financing for many vets. Aid & Attendance and pensions are the hooks on the scams.
They benefits are available only to vets who have low incomes and net worth. It’s easier to arrange one’s finances to qualify for these than it is for Medicaid. These scamsters offer to help vets navigate the rules and complete applications.
There are several things to watch out for when considering an advisor.
Some firms have names implying they are associated with the Department of Veterans Affairs or an organization of vets. Beware of advisors with such names.
Some of the questionable firms offer to help for a fee, such as a “counseling fee.” Some claim their fees are for overall financial planning or other work, which they often don’t do. People who help vets with their benefits are supposed to be accredited by the DVA. They also aren’t allowed to charge fees for helping to file applications and other paperwork. Ask for proof of VA accreditation and don’t agree to pay fees for help with the VA paperwork. But don’t relax when an advisor has VA accreditation. It’s easy to get, and the VA doesn’t do much policing.
The real objective of many scammers is to sell you annuities. It’s legal to transfer assets in different ways to meet the income and net worth requirements. Some advisers recommend purchasing annuities.
The annuities might be inappropriate for you. They could have high fees, long surrender periods, and limit your access to money in an emergency. They’ll also leave your heirs without anything.
A warning was issued by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and Congress held hearings in the fall. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. The VA has offices and an 800 number plus a web site. There also are legitimate attorneys, accountants, and others who will help you. You probably can obtain contacts and help through a local veterans’ group.
RW December 2012.