HARRISBURG – Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane and Acting Adjutant General James R. Joseph today warned Pennsylvania veterans and their families to be aware of schemes aimed at selling veterans financial products they don’t need or charging them for services which are otherwise free.
These kinds of schemes, referred to as “pension poaching,” may be perpetrated by attorneys, financial planners, insurance agents or others who use misleading or incomplete information to encourage veterans to make decisions about their finances in order to qualify for benefits.
Kane said her agency’s Office of Military and Veterans Affairs has received reports of dishonest planners or people misrepresenting themselves as veteran service officers targeting veterans in senior centers, assisted living facilities and other locations where they couple guarantees about qualifying for benefits with a high pressure sales pitch for their products.
“Some unscrupulous financial planners attempt to take advantage of our veterans by offering high-priced services that veterans and their families can typically obtain for free,” Kane said. “Veterans should avoid these dishonest advisors and keep the money that’s rightfully theirs. My Office of Military and Veterans Affairs is committed to advocating on behalf of veterans and protecting them from scams.”
Often, pension poachers try to convince veterans to transfer their assets or invest in insurance products to qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits, but don’t disclose how those transactions impact the veteran’s eligibility for other federal programs like Medicaid.
Aid and Attendance can supplement a military pension but is only available in limited circumstances.
“We need to get the word out that veterans should never pay for these services,’’ said Joseph. “Free assistance is readily available from any accredited veterans service officer at the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, their County Director of Veterans Affairs, or through a chartered veterans service organization such as the American Legion, VFW, DAV, or AMVETS to name a few.”
Educating veterans, their families and their caregivers is the first line of defense in combating pension poaching. Kane and Joseph said that collaborating with other state and national stakeholders has been helpful in reaching Pennsylvania’s large veteran community.
The agencies offered tips to veterans and their families who are considering applying for VA benefits:
- It is free to apply for veterans’ benefits.
- Find an accredited professional to help with paperwork. The VA accredits representatives from Veterans Services Organizations, claims agents and private attorneys. Accreditation only means an individual has received training in completing VA paperwork, it does not mean the individual’s products, advise or ethics are endorsed by the VA. Accredited individuals cannot charge for a veteran for completing or submitting their application to the VA.
- In Pennsylvania, a veteran can get assistance in their county. To find a county Director of Veterans Affairs check the DMVA website at dmva.state.pa.us
It is ok to decline a financial product, or take time to decide. If an advisor pressures a veteran to act fast, it may be a signal to say no.
For more information on how pension poachers operate, or file a report about a pension poacher, veterans can visit www.attorneygeneral.gov or call (717) 783-1944