Pension Poacher’s New Camouflage
Trying to appear as advocates for elderly veterans and widows they use the lure of veterans’ benefits to get prospective clients into their offices. Once inside, *pension poachers will help the client file a claim with the Dept. of Veterans Affairs for pension benefits -AND- they will sell annuities, insurances, or other financial products. Once they were questionable advocacy organizations, now they are tax-exempt charities.
What do they look like? The Pension Poacher is typically a business-person never having served in the military. They speak very highly of their organization’s efforts to inform veterans about a little known program available to help pay for medical care. For example, “We are here to assist you because we believe our honored veterans should not have to struggle with retirement because of health care or sickness costs. Our … organization was created to see our veterans secure in the country they served.” (www.vaabenefit.com/) This suggests they have come with the “saving solution” and are ready to “serve.”
They boast about all the money their organization has helped claimants receive. Looking deeper into these organizations, almost always is seen a business with a lawyer, a financial planner, and/or an insurance broker. They have no relations with legitimate veteran organizations by either cooperative efforts or events. Yet they are frequently allied with adult care living facilities.
Pension Poachers first, last, and always, are about selling. They are experienced in presenting a product or service in an appealing manner. They are trained to control what you think about their products. The sales-person will refocus you on what they want you to comprehend and they will influence your understanding for what they want you to believe. They illegally use the lure of veteran benefits as a marketing niche.
The poachers play a shell game. Confusing what is actually contained in the VA pension program, a multi-layered benefit that is intended for financially disadvantaged veterans who served during a period of conflict, and are disabled or above 65. In other words, they negate the VA’s intentions and hopefully gain financially for themselves. By using loop-holes in the law and selling financial products, often of poor value, they make the claimant artificially appear eligible.
The following advertisement made by one such organization is a typical example found on the internet, “…is a national 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to assisting and educating our nation's senior veterans and their surviving spouses about the Non-Service Connected Disability Pension with Aid and Attendance. … We are here to provide guidance through what can often be a complex and confusing process. … all claims related matters are conducted by our VA accredited staff. Jointly, we have successfully assisted tens of thousands of deserving Veterans and Surviving Spouses in obtaining their benefits. (www.usseniorvets.com/about_us.html)
Why are pension poachers dangerous to work with? There are many reasons. The above example shows many of them. Research into the above organization’s background reveals that the only VA accredited staff is a lawyer in Nevada, yet the organization was found only in California. No other staff was found to have any formal recognition or accreditation. The agent giving classes in Washington state has no status or accreditation with the VA; admits that he just collects tax information, and forwards it to the tax-exempt charity’s headquarters for the claims process to begin.
When these so-called charities are focused on just one of the many VA benefit programs, they short change/distract the veteran or widow from other benefits. The National Association of Black Veterans (NABV) of Washington state found that over half of the eligible veterans sitting in a Pension Poacher seminar discussing VA Pension, were also eligible for much better benefits. These benefit programs were overlooked because the agent of the so-called advocacy group knew nothing about those benefits or was not prepared to discuss them.
When the agent in Washington state, who represented this charity based in CA, was asked about the other VA benefit programs that he was not prepared to discuss; his reply was that the people at the headquarters would correct that discrepancy. He did not explain how they would, and since no copies of VA records or historical medical records are available, it’s not sure how they would or could since they have no direct affiliation with the VA. Further, VA law does not allow attorneys to process original claims for benefits.
Do you want to trust your future to a person who may have already shown to themselves to be ethically challenged? That sales person has broken the law by using veteran benefits for a marketing lure. They may have broken several other laws that oversee the collection of information and its use, and/or they have discussed veteran benefits when they do not have the legal right to do so.
In 2012, Congress passed the Pension Poacher Act in an attempt to stop the use of veteran benefits as a marketing tool by businesses parading as advocacy organizations with the resulting exploitation of elderly vets. They are now calling themselves 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt charities while doing the same thing as before. The legitimate service organizations recognized by the VA have no strings attached or lures. Nor do you pass through a series of business offices to get what is easily done by yourself.
*Pension Poacher - a term coined by federal investigators who were successful in getting laws passed in 2012 to curtail the exploitation of elderly veterans.