Beware unscrupulous attorneys, financial planners and insurance agents targeting veterans and their families. They begin their pitch with an offer for free pension advice. However, the qualifications for the extended benefits that the “advisers” are discussing are strictly controlled and specific. With little regard to those qualifications, the people pitching advice are actually telling veterans to invest or transfer money without advising of the long-term consequences. The advisers make hundreds or thousands of dollars in fees if their advice is heeded.
These veteran “advocates” often target assisted living facilities, senior centers and other community centers where help is given for filling out application for Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits. Both are monetary benefits in addition to veteran pensions and are strictly controlled by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Common tactics used by unethical “advocates” include:
• Claim of being a fellow veteran.
• High-pressure sales pitch for their products and services.
• An appeal to emotion, producing anxiety and apprehension about the future.
Applying for veterans’ benefits is free. You can apply for A&A or Housebound benefits directly with your Veterans Affairs Regional Office. You can find more information at http://benefits.va.gov/pension/.
The VA does accredit representatives of VA-recognized Veterans Service Organizations, independent claims agents and attorneys to assist in completing and filing pension claims. Those who are accredited are not allowed to charge you to complete and submit your forms. To check accreditation, visit www.va.gov/ogc/apps/ accreditation/. You can also check to see if someone is licensed in Washington state as an attorney at www.wsba.org, or as an insurance agent at www.insurance.wa.gov.
Find out more about organization before you pay for services by visiting the BBB at www.bbb.org or call 509-455-4200.
Erin T. Dodge, BBB editor
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