New regulations just went into effect for administering VA Pension benefits that also aims to protect veterans against “pension poachers.”
Pension poachers are commonly known as paid advisors who charge veterans for benefits advice outside of allowed regulatory provisions. According to a press release from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR):
These poachers convince elderly veterans to sell their homes, transfer assets, and pay exorbitant fees. In some cases, the VA does not approve veterans for the benefit after they have locked assets away in difficult-to-tap financial products. In addition, the financial maneuvering can often affect a senior’s ability to qualify for Medicaid benefits and other government assistance programs.
The new laws, effective October 18, include a three-year look back at asset transfers to dis-incentivize the practice by penalizing families who move assets to qualify for VA Pension.
A few years ago, GAO conducted an undercover investigation into companies helping elderly veteran families qualify for pension whose net worth is outside the program’s parameters. Approximately 200 companies were noted as being involved.
The investigation uncovered that some of these organizations charging fees for financial services were overcharging veterans for services by up to $10,000.
Fees For Services
This does not mean all companies that provide financial services to veterans are bad or doing things that are unethical. The reality is veterans, like all Americans, benefit from financial planning and estate planning. Many companies are great at providing these services, and they are justified in charging for their labor in most instances.
For example, I am a disabled veteran who intends on estate planning to ensure my children are taken care of if I die before they turn 18. It is vital and important to think ahead and plan for the worst. I plan to pay an estate planner a reasonable fee to ensure my children are taken care of, and to me, the peace of mind is worth every penny.
That said, it is important to ensure the professionals you hire have appropriate credentials. Veterans seeking to hire an attorney should verify that the attorney is VA accredited to provide legal advice in pursuing their benefits like VA Pension. When seeking these benefits the service provider cannot charge for legal representation unless the veteran or family member was denied benefits, first.
Meanwhile, veterans seeking general financial advice about their assets may not need to hire someone who is VA Accredited, depending on the nature of the services sought.
As with anything related to money or benefits, veterans must be sure to conduct standard inquiries to ensure the services you receive are appropriate for you.