Veterans, especially older veterans, are prime targets for “pension poaching,” where scammers use any number of methods to either swindle targets out of earned benefits or convince them to apply for benefits they haven’t earned … often after paying fraudulent application fees.
A VA blog post covered the issue last month, while the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs sent out a warning June 15. Here’s some basic information about pension poaching from those pieces and others.
Steer clear of individuals or organizations with financial or benefits pitches that include:
- Requesting you move money into different accounts or reallocate investments to qualify for a VA pension payment.
- Asking for money to handle your claim – especially upfront – or charging for application forms. While some attorneys or claims agents may receive compensation for help with a pension claim, they must be accredited and the claim must be approved before that fee can be charged.
- Promising “guaranteed eligibility” for a particular benefit, or a lump-sum payment upon approval for a benefit.
- Seeking personal information over the phone, to include credit card or other billing information.
- Offering to send benefits directly to a caregiver’s account.
In some cases, the scammer’s main goal may be to solicit an “application fee” without any intent of applying for any benefits, or to obtain your personal information. In others, unaccredited individuals may apply for VA benefits on your behalf … and per the VA, you may be required to repay those benefits if it’s determined you are not eligible.
Filing a Complaint
If you believe you’ve been targeted by scammers regarding your VA benefits, you can file a complaint via the VA’s national call center at (800) 827-1000, or by visiting the department’s Office of Inspector General online.
Get more information on pension poaching from the VA at this link (PDF).