Lawmakers scramble to stop vet pension scams
Published: June 8, 2012
WASHINGTON – Lawmakers are searching for ways to protect veterans from pension scam in the wake of a Government Accountability Office report saying those payouts are being targeted by unscrupulous financial firms.
Certain disabled veterans and older low-income veterans are eligible for thousands of dollar annually in Veterans Affairs pensions. The GAO report found that some firms are charging veterans thousands of dollars to navigate the pension process, even though such services aren’t needed.
Investigators also found companies coaching veterans to hide certain financial assets to qualify for the pensions, and taking a cut of the payouts.
Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., have proposed new legislation to allow the VA authority to re-examine those pension claims, fixing a loophole which prevents them from looking at certain sheltered financial assets when calculating the payouts.
A group of Democratic senators has also called for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to look into penalties for companies that give veterans misleading or fraudulent advice. Members of Congress also called on VA officials to step up their education efforts, to prevent veterans from falling victim to the scams.
Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., asked veterans and their families to send their stories to his office to help create a database of problem companies “so we can help shut these scams down.”
In 2011, the VA pension program system paid $4.3 billion to 517,100 veterans or their survivors.