Veteran Pension Scams: Beware of Losing Your Benefits
Veterans are being targeted by scams—don’t become a statistic
Veterans have given much to their country and have earned their benefits. Seniors are often the target of scams, and everyday people fall prey to veteran pension scams. Many vile individuals have decided to take advantage of the aging veteran population and prey upon their health and safety. Scammers and poachers will contact veterans and offer to help them receive their pension or health benefits. These people say they will assist in moving around a veteran’s assets to help them qualify for a pension. Instead they move those assets into their own bank account and leaving vet with nothing!
A common tactic for these crooks is to mention they can help a vet qualify for low-income benefits through the VA. They often look legitimate and may seem to be helpful. They are absolutely not!
To prey on veterans, they steal ideas from legitimate Medicare/Medicaid organizations. The aging and low-income population is used to working within these programs, making the scammer seem authentic. Veterans Administration pension and health benefits are drastically different than Medicare/Medicaid benefits. The two systems are not interchangeable in any way. Those who commit veteran pension scams have become very good at convincing the vet of their legitimacy.
The worst part is that if a veteran does follow the advice of the criminal, they may lose their VA benefits.
Examples of Veteran Pension Scams
Representatives: So-called “Veterans Financial Advocates” seem to be nice people with a honorable goal, but their true motive is devious. These con artists will often contact veterans Scammers will suggest they can represent a veteran’s interests to the VA. They will ask for a sum of money for them to begin work and they will receive the payment, take their cut, and give the substantially reduced amount to the vet. Sometimes the veteran will receive nothing at all. They may attempt to contact through email, regular mail, or through the phone.
Cold Callers: Anyone who calls a veteran offering to help them file a VA pension claim is likely a scam artist. They will charge the vet, often asking them for their credit card information up front over the phone. Cold callers never complete assisting the veteran; they just charge the card.
Secret Government Programs: There are no secret government veteran’s benefit programs. These nefarious people will often ask for a fee or personal information up front to provide information. The information is non-existent.
Money Now: Preying on low income veterans, scammers will offer to provide the veteran with cash now. In exchange, the veteran forwards pension or disability payments to the scammer. While these people often do provide the cash, the benefit payment they receive is much higher than the original amount.
Military Record Access: Anyone who says they will provide you with your records for a fee is charging for a free service. Every veteran can access their records or government forms free of charge through their local VA.
Hiding Your Assets: Some VA benefits are based on your income and net worth. Being able to hide assets to appear to have less worth may allow you to receive a higher pension amount. This may work, but ultimately will disqualify the vet from other government assistance like Medicaid. These scam financial planners will also put the veteran’s funds into accounts that may not allow them easy access.
Affinity Frauders: These people are like cold callers but will create personalities to appeal to the veteran. For example, someone pretending to be a VA official may call asking for personal information. Others may call and pretend to be a current service member who is about to be deployed and is offering a product. It is a product the vet will pay for and will never arrive.
What is the VA Pension Benefit?
The VA describes their pension benefit as:
VA pension benefits provide tax-free monthly payments to wartime Veterans with limited or no income who meet certain age or disability requirements. Survivors of wartime Veterans may also qualify for a VA pension.
Not all veterans will be able to apply and receive a pension benefit. Veterans that apply and receive the benefit will be provided with a monthly stipend. To be eligible you must meet certain qualifications. The VA lists several qualifications, one of the most important to understand is the wartime service requirement. To qualify, a veteran must have served during:
- Mexican Border period (May 9, 1916, to April 5, 1917, for Veterans who served in Mexico, on its borders, or in adjacent waters)
- World War I (April 6, 1917, to November 11, 1918)
- World War II (December 7, 1941, to December 31, 1946)
- Korean conflict (June 27, 1950, to January 31, 1955)
- Vietnam War era (February 28, 1961, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam during that period. August 5, 1964, to May 7, 1975, for Veterans who served outside the Republic of Vietnam.)
- Gulf War (August 2, 1990, through a future date to be set by law or presidential proclamation)
What are VA Health Care Benefits?
Beyond receiving healthcare through the VA, vets can receive additional help as they age. There are two major programs that offer help. Aid and Attendance and Home Health Aide Services provide qualifying veterans with the help they need.
To receive either of these benefits, the veteran must enroll in VA health care program. Generally, vets that were discharged honorably and served on active duty can enroll.
The next step is to show need for aid. This is often assessed by a primary care physician, who will then provide recommendations for care. A VA social worker will then help with the next steps.
Aid and Attendance increases a veteran’s monthly pension amount to pay for the cost of assistance. This is also available for housebound veterans. The Home Health Aide services program allows for a caregiver to help the veteran with Activities of Daily Living. The programs are different both in structure of payment and application process. Veteran pension scams rarely focus on these benefits, but it is important to be aware of them. Those looking to defraud veterans will find new ways all the time.
Avoiding Veteran Pension Scams
Many of the people calling and contacting veterans do so knowing the vet does not qualify for the benefits they are offering. The first step to understanding what the veteran has earned is contacting the VA. They organization has provided information online for pension benefits and health care benefits. One can call them at (800) 827-1000 to avoid a pension poacher.
The easiest way to avoid veteran pension scams is to never provide financial information over the phone or through email. Before providing this information or signing a contract, the veteran and their family should investigate. Never wire money to anyone; this is the easiest way for scammers to get a veteran’s money. These wires are impossible to trace. The money will be gone.
The VA accredits individuals or companies that legitimately assist veterans. By checking their database against the name of the company or individual, you can assure your safety.
Receiving Health Benefits
Needing help with daily living activities is nothing to be ashamed of or too proud to receive. All veterans deserve to age in place and have a safe, healthy life. If you are a veteran and think you are eligible for a Home Health Aide through the VA, contact 1776 Senior Care. We will help you in any way we can.