News release from the Allen County Veterans Services Officer:
Allen County Veterans Service Officer Cautions Area Veterans to Beware of “Pension Poachers”
To the Veterans of Allen County and Our Surrounding Area,
It has come to my attention through dozens of phone calls and meetings with Veterans and family members that there has been a marked increase in the despicable practice of “Benefit Poaching” or “Pension Poaching.” In this egregious act, Veterans and their families are being charged a fee for the preparation, development, and submittal of federal benefit claims to the Department of Veterans Affairs by certain lawyers or financial representatives.
According to VA.gov, “By law, no person or organization may charge claimants a fee for assistance in preparing applications for VA benefits or presenting claims to VA (U.S.C. 38 C.F.R. Â§ 14.631).” However, Veterans or their loved ones are being charged “consultation fees” or “research fees” for preparation work, or these costs are being bundled into other charges, such as the fees charged for preparing last will and testament, trusts, and other financial instruments. Such “consultation” fees are unlawful if they are charged after a Veteran or Surviving Spouse becomes a VA claimant by expressing to the attorney or financial agent an intent to file a claim for VA benefits. It is my advice that Veterans or their families immediately identify their intent to file for VA benefits in their initial meeting with their attorney or financial agent. I also advise that they request an itemized billing of services and fees from their attorney or financial consultant. If you see that you were charged any amount or sum of fees for the time period or meeting for which your VA benefit claim was prepared, developed, or submitted, then you should report this to the Indiana Attorney General’s office, the Veterans Affairs Attorney General, or the Indiana State Bar Association. You may also contact your County Veterans Service Office to report these charges and acquire the contact information for the Attorney Generals.
Not only do these people charge for their time when preparing these claims, but in some instances falsely advise Veterans and their families on the eligibility restrictions or financial thresholds. One particular example of this is the misrepresentation of the net-worth limitations by which VA uses to determine eligibility. In these cases, “Pension Poachers” will cite an extremely low and falsely constructed maximum threshold number in order to sell unsuspecting Veterans’ and their families’ financial products and instruments. These “Poachers” then tell you that “you have too much in assets” and “don’t worry, we can get you qualified” or “we know how to move or hide your assets to get you qualified.” The Department of Veterans Affairs advises Veterans to be cautious if someone offers to move your assets around for you to qualify for a VA pension. You could be required to repay these benefits to the government.
What can you do to safeguard yourself from these unscrupulous poachers? First off, educate yourselves about the VA benefit for which you will be applying. One resource is the Department of Veterans Affairs website at VA.gov. Another resource is your County Veterans Service Officer who is trained and accredited to provide these services. We work for our respective counties and are here to serve our Hoosier Veterans and, most importantly, all of our services are FREE. To locate your County Veterans Service Office or to find contact information concerning your County Veterans Service Office, go to the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs website at www.in.gov/dva and click the “County Veterans Service Officers” link. Thank you for your service and sacrifice to our great nation.
Allen County Veterans Service Officer
1 East Main Street; Room 106
Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Phone: 260-449-7861 – Fax: 260-449-7997