With countless financial outlets promising to help veterans and their families offset the cost of senior care, how can you distinguish the shysters from legit operations?
Here, we highlight the most common financial scams that target veterans—and ways to avoid them.
The landscape of veterans benefits can be disorienting, and unscrupulous businesses take advantage of the confusion with offers to determine eligibility and provide assistance with filing benefits applications. These scammers are people like financial planners and elder law attorneys who charge veterans and their families anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars for their assistance.
The problem? While the Veterans Aid and Attendance benefit is 100 percent legit, it is illegal to charge any amount of money to help families apply for veterans benefits.
How to avoid the scam: Never, ever, pay for services that should be free. If you’re looking for information about applying for veterans benefits such as Aid and Attendance, head to a reputable site like VeteranAid.org that will never charge you for information and assistance.
Similar to predators, poachers pose as helpful agents trying to help veterans qualify for benefits. But these scammers take the scheme a step further by not only charging fees for their so-called assistance, but also convincing veterans to invest in a variety of insurance products or transfer their assets to a trust. The brokers promise that these actions will help veterans qualify for benefits, but what they don’t share is that by making these transactions, veterans can lose the use of their money for a long time, and even forfeit eligibility for Medicaid.
In essence, these dishonest advisers guarantee you’ll qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit, and if you don’t, they work hard to convince you to restructure your finances so you do qualify.
How to avoid the scam: Keep in mind that no one except the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can guarantee that you will receive the Aid and Attendance benefit—so steer clear of any insurance agent, financial planner, or attorney who says otherwise. And if someone is trying to pressure you to move your money around, feel free to say no and seek insight from more trustworthy advisors.
Have you ever gotten a phone call or email from someone who claims to be a VA representative and then asks you to verify your personal or financial information? You assume they already have the information; they just need you to confirm it so you can qualify for veterans benefits.
The issue is that if you’ve already applied for veterans benefits, the VA will have your information on file. And even if you haven’t applied, the VA will never request information by phone or email—all official correspondence will be conducted via postal mail.
How to avoid the scam: Never give out any personal or financial information over the phone or via email. Hang up the phone, don’t call back, and don’t reply to any of these types of emails. If you’d like, you can call the VA directly to see if it was one of their representatives who contacted you, or if—more likely—it was a scammer.
Bottom line? Be careful who you trust so you don’t get taken for a ride.
“The men and women who served our country deserve to be treated with respect,” says Kaylin Gilkey, community engagement manager at VeteranAid.org. “It’s a shame there are so many organizations that will try to take advantage of our military families when they go looking for information to apply for veterans benefits. VeteranAid.org will never charge anyone a dime for any of the services, information, and advice we provide. That’s how it should be.”
SHARE YOUR STORY: Has your family ever fallen prey to a scam targeting veterans?