Be cautious if someone tries to offer to move your assets around for you to qualify for a VA pension. It’s a scam! You could be required to repay these benefits to the government. While there are organizations who honor our troops, beware of the organizations who are pretending to have open arms to charity. These are people seeking to steal your money and possibly even your identity.

What is a pension plan?

The United States Office of Veteran Affairs (VA) helps veterans and their families with financial challenges by providing income through a Veterans Pension benefit. This benefit is extended to veterans who have served at least 90 days during war time and were discharged from service under honorable means. Other veterans who are 65 and older and have a permanent nonservice related disability are also eligible for a pension plan. Aid and Attendance (A&A) is an increased monthly pension amount and can be paid directly to a veteran or a surviving spouse. Housebound is also an increased monthly pension and is paid to the veteran or the surviving spouse who is confined to their home because of a permanent disability.

Veterans and their families are popular targets when it comes to making quick cash. There are dishonest advisers out claiming to offer free help with pension plans. These advisers often report as attorneys, financial planners, and insurance agents from the VA office persuading veterans to hand over their personal information. They then request money in exchange for processing a veteran’s claim for VA benefits.

Typically, these scammers try to convince veterans to transfer assets into a trust so they can qualify for A&A benefits. Schemes for transferring and hiding assets can backfire. If the A&A application is denied, the vet may not be able to touch the money they have put into annuities and trusts for decades without huge penalties. In addition, these fake advisers are charging fees that range from hundreds to thousands of dollars for their services.

Pension poaching is a common and unethical act. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), hundreds of financial professionals claim to help veterans obtain their A&A benefit.

What can you do?

  1. Check their credentials: Before trusting anyone, be sure to research the company, individual and reputation. It is best to reach out to a legitimate VA-accredited adviser who is trained to help veterans and their families with financial planning.
  2. Do not be afraid to say no: Scammers are professionals at pressuring victims into making quick decisions especially if veterans are in a financial struggle. Before they can gather any information, just say no thank you. Get the facts first before making any uncomfortable decisions.

Report fraud and scams to the FTC: Report the incident to the FTC either online or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.

For more information about VA pension eligibility requirements—which include special monthly pension benefits—go to www.benefits.va.gov/pension or call 1-800-827-1000.

The federal government’s Military Consumer website has free resources to help veterans, service members and others in the military community fight fraud and make informed financial

If you or a loved one are in need of an attorney or would like to explore other resources, you can utilize if they are being abused, you can visit the Texas Crime Victim Legal Assistance Network.

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, cayala@lonestarlegal.org.