This is not legal advice. You should always seek the advice of an attorney who is qualified in Veterans' law before you make any decisions about your own benefits. Visit Stateside Legal (below) for assistance with legal issues.
Veteran & Family To VA: "You can keep your darned money!"
When the daughters who had long provided care for their father, LtCol. (Ret.) Robert L. Solze, asked for a little help from VA, they never suspected what would be delivered.
Their veteran father suffers from a number of health issues. He served in the WWII, Korea and Vietnam eras. He lives with one daughter, the other daughter takes care of his finances and any legal issues and has held his Durable Power of Attorney for years. Lois Dimitre, her sister Robbi Guillerault and their father live a quiet life in Maine.
LtCol. Solze suffers from dementia. His daughters realized that they could use some help in providing care for him and it was suggested that they turn to the VA. VA did provide some in-home care for him and then decided that the Togus Regional Office was really going to help him. It was noted that he had served in Vietnam and he has an IHD condition.
Without anyone particulalry understanding just what was happening, in August of 2010 he was awarded a 100% disabled, service connected benefit. During the C & P exams ordered, a physician noted that LtCol. Solze was not capable to handle his own financial affairs.
That wasn't a surprise to his family. After all, daughter Lois had his POA for a reason. She had carefully managed his financial affairs for many years and all was well.
But VA can't stand a stable family setting. The VA decided that it must declare that LtCol. Solze was "Incompetent" and that the VA now had to help him. Thus began the march toward the appointment of a VA sanctioned fiduciary.
The letter arrived. To enforce their point VA wrote to the veteran that, "The claimant is not competent to handle disbursement of funds."
The letter went on to say, "We must find you incompetent for VA purposes", "you have been found not competent", "the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act prohibits you from purchasing, possessing, receiving, or transporting a firearm or ammunition based upon our determination that you are incompetent to handle your VA funds".
The letter continues to say, "your disability keeps you from ably managing your Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits. Therefore we will find someone to manage them for you". On another page VA states, "records show that your daughter is your power of attorney and takes care of your financial affairs."
If the records show the daughter is handling the veterans affairs, why the need for a VA appointed fiduciary?
The telephone calls from the VA Field Examiner have begun. From the Togus VARO comes Randy Minet and he's going to help this veteran. His demands so far have been to speak directly to the veteran so that he can inform him about the Brady Act. Now he wants to meet with the family and the veteran to sign the papers that will turn over the vet's bank account to strangers.
The VA, via Field Examiner Minet, is determined to help this veteran. That his intrusion into their lives has upset the fragile well being and health of the veteran is of little consequence. The fact that the veteran is well cared for and financially stable means nothing to the Togus RO. Mr. Minet is determined to help this veteran even if he has to destroy the family in the process.
Yesterday the family decided that enough was enough. They called the Regional Office and told them that there would be no meeting. VA can do what it wants but if anyone shows up to enforce VA rules, the police will be called. There are laws against elder abuse, even when it's your VA who is determined to help you.
The recent Freeman v. Shinseki case at CAVC pointed out and underlined that these issues that are caused by an overly aggressive VA flaunting its power are not at all what Congress intended when fiduciary laws were promulgated.
As it was so clearly stated in CAVC 10-1462, Freeman v. Shinseki, when Judge Lance opined, "In such a case, it seems unnecessarily burdensome to establish a separate 'trusteeship' and charge the veteran up to 4% of his/her benefits for a trustee that may not be desired, wanted, or needed."
That summarizes the current situation; LtCol. Solze and his loving daughters neither desire, want, nor do they need any "help" from the VA.
This family chooses to opt out of the VA bullying.
How will VA respond? I'm putting my money on the VA increasing the pressure to require the family to bend to the will of the VA. Attorneys are forming a line, ready to dive into the scrum.
It's as if nobody at VA has bothered reading the Freeman decision. No, I'm not surprised. It's just business as usual at your VA.