There are financial service firms using the front of helping with VA benefits as a way to meet prospective customers. Some appear to be veteran organizations–“appear” being the key word. These groups solicit your business based on a VA program. They offer to get you money from the VA for long term care cost, assisted living, or survivor benefits. Tread lightly around these offers.
I have no evidence or indication that these organizations have or will cause harm. Some have the Better Business Bureau seal on its web site. On the surface, they appear legitimate. Here is why my senses are peaked:
- Because the organizations are commercial financial services firms.
- Because the organizations are not official Veteran Service Organizations (VSO). VSOs are chartered by the VA to act as an official VA representative for members on VA matters.
- Because I question the motives behind a commercial financial service firm’s interest in helping military members with issues that get them nothing in return—except the likelihood of finding new customers and getting access to your accounts. The process, bureaucracy and time involved in helping members with VA programs is substantial so these organizations are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts?
- They are ‘helping’ in an area that is not their core business.
- It just so happens that helping with some of these VA programs provides access to your complete financial information.
- It’s really about cross-selling you their products once they have your financial information.
If you need help learning about VA programs or with a VA application process, I highly recommend you work with an approved VSO. It’s their job to help you at no cost. To find a VSO check here. You can also check with your state VA department and your state’s network of county veteran service officers. Find your county office here.
If someone approaches you to help with a VA application, claim, or appeal, check to see if they are a VSO. Chances are they won’t be because VSOs don’t solicit for your business, you have to find them. It’s a too-good-to-believe story if there ever was one.
Based on the story of one of our MOAA members and this Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine article, the picture on these commercial financial firms parading as Veteran Service Organizations (VSO) is starting to develop.
Once in the front door by stating they can help get you VA’s Aid and Attendance money, they want to reorganize your finances in trusts and annuities claiming it is how they make you eligible for the money. The Businessweek article and our MOAA member tell the same story.
The VA’s Aid and Attendance program is to help provide extra money to those veterans and their spouses who have long term care needs. The VA also has a program called Housebound that serves a similar purpose.
Bottom line: If you want to apply for these programs, work with an official Veteran Service Office. They will do the job for free and won’t be selling you anything or asking to manage your money. Plus it is their mission to work VA issues and only VA issues. These financial firms don’t care about your VA claim; they just want access to your money and to sell you something. See the article above for how to find your VSO.