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Fighting-Back-Against-the-VA-Pension-Fraud
Thomas W. Stoddert, US Army Retired, is right on every point and I applaud his courage to write a very exacting letter.  My tenure at Madigan Army Medical Center as the NCOIC of the Department of Medicine made me aware of mismanaged policies and management issues.  I worked with a wonderful staff of professionals and paraprofessionals who conducted themselves very appropriately and courteously, with politeness, knowledge, experience and timeliness.  However, all of our efforts were frequently clouded by the frustrations of personnel shortages, ancillary demands of personnel, frustrations secondary to multi-echelon mismanagement issues, and numerous other problems.

The Department of Medicine includes 13 separate sections, clinics, and sub-departments, each with specific medical missions comprised of doctors, PA's, nurses, medical technicians, and support personnel, including military and civilian staff.  Some clinics have direct access through central appointments while many others required a referral from the primary care provider.  All too often miscommunication between various services and ancillary personnel would complicate scheduling problems.  An appropriate example: Patient "A" might be scheduled to see doctor "Z" in a specific clinic, but Dr. Z had to cancel all appointments because he/she had to support another military mission somewhere else on post or deploy to another country.

Frequently, the appointment schedule confusion was not because of medical staffing, but due to Central Appointments or Tri-Care issues for providing less than appropriate information to the patient and the provider.  Regardless who was at fault, the senior enlisted member of each clinic, section or department always tried to resolve relevant matters at the lowest level before involving the members of the Patient Representative Office and Patient Affairs Office. 

As the NCOIC or the department, I coordinated with the Patient Representative Office and Patient Affairs Office and designed placard's which identified the OIC and NCOIC of each clinic, section and department with a current photograph and a customer service statement bent on resolving problems or complaints at the lowest level.  The commanding general at the time accepted the design and ordered that it be implemented throughout the hospital.  The implementation was done in 2000 and I hope it is still in place. I am confident that the NCO's and OIC's at each level are fully capable of resolving conflicts and complaints, providing they get support from the senior management of medical care at Madigan Army Medical Center.

On the other hand, I and many others have all too often witnessed many frustrated and dissatisfied patients and family members who lack the patience to allow the system to work as it is designed.  These patients complain every chance they get and they become very loud and ugly about it, making treats, breaching the chain of command, and writing letters and memos to anyone who will listen.  The members of the Patient Representative Office and Patient Affairs Office do everything possible to bring providers and patients to a equitable arrangement, resolve appointment conflicts and ultimately bend-over-backwards.  Still, the patient complains and will ultimately use the same tactic every time they feel the need, regardless of how well or how often they have been treated with the same professional level of care that all patients and family members are given.

I am not blind and I do not wear rose colored glasses.  I know there are problems with the management of care at Madigan Army Medical Center and other military medical facilities.  However, there is no single mission in the military service that is as resource intensive as the medical mission on a daily basis.  Then the medical facilities must comply with and satisfy military and civilian laws, protocols, standards, inspections, and funding agencies.  All of this while still supporting the military missions of deployments, training, education, reassignments, and command emphasis issues. 

So, yes, a problem exists, but it will take the collective initiative of the soldier's at each facility to make the improvements, with the support of the Army Medical Corp senior management and mass influence of money and personnel.

Sincerely,
Alan B. Candia
U.S. Army (Ret.)   

Reader's Response Below
Thank you for your courage to tell it like it is!   The General is a good person but what can one person do?   Do you know who the members of her so-called command group are?   The Deputy Commander for Administration is ineffective, disinterested, weak and lame.   The Deputy Commander for Clinical Services is pretty smart but he is a poor leader, has no clue what his subordinates are supposed to do and he is leaving in a few weeks.   The Deputy Commander for Nursing is also lame and she is about to retire.   The Hospital Sergeant Major is also about to retire!    In addition to the problems you described, there are many others.   For example, I wish someone would approach Mr. and Ms. Horrell  and ask them what they know about nepotism and the merit system!   Madigan is a wonderful institution and has many great people but the fat, ineffective and overstaffed upper management needs to replaced and realigned now!  

Husband of a very concerned member of the Madigan Team  
Question:
I am rated 100% unemployability. My ratings are as follows.
30% for chlorache from Agent Orange exposure
30% for PTSD
40% for diabetes
It also says on my award letter, "No Future Exams."
My question is do you think they can re-examine me in the future and take away my benefits?
Thank You,
Bob Clark

Answer:
Bob, Thanks for writing in to the "Veteran's Voice."

The VA can require a future exam at any time  if they feel there may be an issue of fraud or if a   gross mistake was made. But generally in cases like yours where they say no future exams,
they mean just that.

The VA can, if they have sufficient reason, propose to lower a rating percentage only if they        believe you may have gotten better or something has happened and they have to review
certain awards. This can happen as an example as the result of a mandate from Congress. The   issue of PTSD, was getting a lot of nasty attention by the national press and the VA went back   and started looking at this issue when it was awarded to  non-combat veterans.

However, the general rules are basically after five years, service connection can not rescinded,   but the rating percentage can be lowered; after ten years there can be no reduction in the rating percentage or severance of a service connected condition unless there was fraud.

All this to say, if you got a fair rating and they have said no future exams, just run with it. The  VA does not like to hassle vets when they do not need to.

Now, the down side, FYI. The VA does  routinely check up to see if you are working and so does    the Social Security Administration. They both allow you some grace in making some extra income because they know staying home vegetating is harmful. However, 100% unemployability is just that and both agencies frown on a veteran receiving benefits because they can not work and then go out and work full time. So check carefully and see what they allow you. I was told recently that these rules may have changed not too long ago.

Assuming you are not working you may want to consider doing volunteer work in the community and/or working with veterans. Here is where the fun starts. The VA, through the education department,  will sometimes purchase items to make a veteran's life more meaningful. In my case they helped me purchase computer equipment so that I can write like I am now and aid other veterans. Now that there is a war on, there are many opportunities to use your talents and experiences for others, particularly other vets.

So good luck and welcome home.
Thom
Thom Stoddert
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  We have all seen advertisements(You may even see them on the side of this page, compliments of Google). from very patriotic sounding organizations, such as the American Association for Wartime Warriors, the Veterans Mutual Benefits Society, Income 4 Veterans, so- on and so-on. Behind these “patriotic organizations” are rooms full of lawyers and insurance salesmen. They claim they are showing their appreciation for the veteran community, but they do so by presenting the only VA benefit that can produce financial commissions for them. They want you to know all about the VA’s Pension and Aid & Attendance programs. They even suggest that it something of a secret, with money already put aside for it.

However, what they do not discuss is the other benefits available. A veteran or a surviving spouse may be eligible for a program that pays significantly better. They never discuss disability compensation or the dependant’s indemnity compensation (DIC) program, because they can’t make money that way. They certainly do not discuss that they are unethically enabling claimants to commit fraud against the VA when they apply for benefits that were not intended for them. Since Pension is a program planned for wartime veterans or the surviving spouse of a wartime veteran with a financial worth of $80,000 or less, eligibility is automatic, all you need to do is apply.  When these insurance salespeople make a non-eligible claimant qualified, they do so by repositioning financial assets. The VA calls it hiding assets. The repercussions from this juggling act can result in a loss of VA benefits, a loss or delay of Medicaid benefits, and/or indebtedness to the government.

A coalition of representatives from AARP, federally chartered national veterans’ service organizations, and other agencies formed the Aid & Attendance Project. They found out that this Pension swindle is far more tragic and dangerous than first believed. Affidavits collected by Bill Milford, of one such service organization, documented how an elderly woman was asked by one of these patriotic financial planners and a lawyer to give away her home and to purchase an irrevocable trust for $25,000, because she was over the VA’s threshold for receiving a pension. When the woman told the agent she did not have that kind of money, they then charged her $2,000 for legal fees and left without filing for any.

A retirement community near Joint Base Lewis McChord, was visited regularly every month for at least a year or two by patriotic financial planners. That is until the A &A Project provided documentation and news clippings from local papers to the community’s marketing director. This facility immediately cancelled the next presentation and asked for real veterans’ advocates to present a benefit’s seminar to the residents and guests.

That is how a representative from AARP and claims officers from National Association of Black Veterans (NABV) became involved with Doris( not her real name). She had come to the seminar after previously talking to the so-called advocates, believing that she would get help from someone to file a claim with the VA for a pension. It did not take long for Lloyd Burroughs, US Army retired, of the NABV to see she was not eligible for a pension unless she hid her real worth from the VA. Lloyd instead showed her the truth that she was eligible for DIC and began to work with her on it. To sum it all up, veterans saved that woman and several others that night from being tricked into buying financial items they did not need and to receive better benefits.

It should be pointed out, that after dealing with these pretend veteran advocates for several years now, I found out how nasty they can be. Although they claim to be citizens grateful for the sacrifices made by veterans, watch how mean and threatening they can get if they feel their commissions are threatened. Employees at the Washington State Dept. of Veteran Affairs found this out several years ago.

As an example, last week I confronted one of these charlatans. He did not dispute my description of his real purpose, nor did he try to argue against my allegations that his actions endangered a claimant. All he did, in front of the manager of the adult living facility, was ask me if I would like a call from his lawyer. I realized I had stepped on some sensitive toes and his relationship with the facility was more than a handshake. Instead, I offered him my business card and repeated my allegations. When I left he looked like an unrepentant kid with his hand still in the cookie jar, angry that he had been caught. 

If you have had an experience with a group like I described or need more information; email Bill Milford at VeteranFraud@gmail.com and do find an ethical financial planner that works on a single fee-based service or speak with a Veteran Service Officer to determine what VA benefit you may legitimately quality for.
More To Come...

It is not often that the intended target of an unethical program or fraud reverses the sting. Businesspersons claiming to be advocates for elderly veterans or their widows are giving free seminars in retirement living communities on how to receive additional money from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) through the benefits of Pension and Aid & Attendance. In reality, these so-called advocates are leaving a trail of serious financial troubles for both the VA claimant and the retirement facilities. However, accredited veteran claims agents like Bill Milford and Lloyd Borroughs, both of whom are military retirees, are exposing these unethical businesses to the public.

Borroughs, from the National Association of Black Veterans (NABV) and Milford, from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) have teamed up with the fraud unit of American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and other agencies to form the Aid & Attendance Project. Their mission is to expose and replace the phony advocates by hosting their own seminars. Lloyd and Bill described their recent effort at a the Patriots Landing in DuPont as being “very successful”, because we most likely saved several people from purchasing unneeded financial products, instead we assisted them in making appropriate claims for the better benefits from the VA.” 

First, Bill, Lloyd, and an AARP representative presented seminar that explained the dangers of working with the veteran pseudo-advocacy groups. Then Lloyd and Bill explained in detail the VA’s eligibility requirements, not only for Pension, but also for disability compensation and dependents indemnity compensation (DIC). The advocacy groups never discuss these programs, since there is no need to reposition or hide financial assets. If there is nothing to be repositioned or hidden from the VA, they cannot make their unethical commissions from irrevocable trust and such.  

These advocacy groups skate very skillfully around the various State and Federal laws. However, at the same time they get the claimant to unknowingly commit fraud against the VA by repositioning assets to become eligible for programs that were not intended for them. This activity will cost the veteran or widow dearly if the VA discovers what has taken place, and benefits may be lost or delayed under the Medicaid program.

One example, Doris (not her real name) had spoken previously to a so-called veteran’s advocate, who told her she needed to purchase an irrevocable trust and then she would meet the VA criteria for eligibility for a pension. Lloyd and Bill sat down with her and after several questions explained to Doris that she did not need to purchase any financial products, nor did she need to file a claim for Pension as she was already eligible for the better benefit of DIC.

The representative from AARP, Jean Mathisen, articulately ended the evening by discussing the profusion of fraud against the elderly and gave further insight into the Medicaid program. All that transpired that evening was made possible by the wisdom and leadership of Susan Fine, the Community Relations Director of Patriots Landing Military Retirement Community in DuPont, WA, who is looking out for veterans. For more information, email Bill Milford at VeteranFraud@gmail.com.

Thom Stoddert, former VA Rating Specialist
Bio Here

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