The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office has received information from the California Department of Justice regarding “pension poaching” – specifically related to military veterans. These incidents target the financial assistance offered through the Veterans Administration Aid and Attendance Program designed to assist veterans over 65 years of age. Individuals posing as insurance agents, unpaid volunteers or Veterans Affairs representatives offer to help senior veterans apply for VA pension benefits. The Sheriff’s Office recommends that all veterans remain cognizant that the VA offers a number of resources to assist them with questions or concerns regarding their benefits.
What to watch out for: Anyone who asks you to pay money or move assets in connection with applying for a VA pension benefit is likely not a VA-accredited representative. He or she may be an insurance agent or representative who receives a sales commission for selling you an annuity or irrevocable trust.
Moving assets into an annuity or irrevocable trust could restrict your access to these funds and may have significant unintended tax or legal consequences that outweigh any financial benefit gained from receiving VA pension benefits.
If you receive VA pension benefits based on false financial need, you could be required to repay any benefits received back to the government.
If you are approached by someone offering to help you apply for VA pension benefits and you would incur any costs or fees in connection with the service being offered, contact your local VA to determine whether this assistance is reputable. Be wary of sharing personal information over the phone. VA representatives will tell you what you need to know and the advice is free. Locally, you can contact:
Placerville Veterans Affairs Main Office
130 Placerville Dr. Suite #B
Placerville, CA 95667
For West Slope Appointments 530-621-5892
East Slope Appointments 530-573-7955 Ext. 5892
Here is more useful information:
A directory of VA centers is available at http://www.va.gov/directory/guide/vetcenter.asp
You can also file a complaint with the California Department of Justice by visiting http://oag.ca.gov/contact/consumer-complaint-against-business-or-company.
A searchable list of VA-accredited representatives is available at http://www.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/index.asp or call 1-800-827-1000.
For more information about VA Aid and Attendance pension benefits, visit http://www.benefits.va.gov/pension.
Sgt. Todd Hammitt