(U.S. Senate) – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) are continuing to push the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to focus on proactive, community-based outreach to better protect veterans and survivors across the country from predatory pension poachers.
“VA pension benefits fulfill a monetary promise made to wartime veterans of a certain age threshold, certain disabilities, or low income and net worth,” wrote the Senators to VA Secretary McDonough. “Unfortunately, there are some bad actors who take advantage of and exploit VA pension recipients and we must do our due diligence to protect veterans and their earned benefits. Updated fact sheets and social media messaging are not enough. Without proactive, community-based programming from VA, pension poachers will continue to defraud some of our nation’s most vulnerable veterans. We look forward to continue working with you and other veteran stakeholders to protect our veterans and their earned pension benefits.”
Aging veterans represent a segment of vulnerable individuals who are being increasingly targeted by bad actors preying upon the VA pension benefits they’ve earned. While veterans are often victims of scams including being overcharged for home care, charged for services they did not receive, or given bad investment advice, a 2019 report from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that VA has not taken an aggressive approach in preventing this exploitation from occurring. In particular, GAO found that pension poachers offer financial services or products to supposedly help pension claimants meet income or net worth requirements for VA pensions, but often did so in ways not in the veteran’s best interest, to include poor returns or limiting access to funds.
In response, Tester, Moran and the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee included language from the Veteran Pension Protection Act, as part of an end-of-year veterans’ package, which required VA to take a more central and active role by developing a plan to address the financial exploitation of veterans.
Raising concerns with VA’s recent plans to educate veterans and their families on the dangers of predatory pension poachers through online channels, the Senators added, “If VA continues to be reactive versus proactively educating veterans on the front-end, these nefarious ‘pension poachers’ will continue to be successful. Websites—while necessary—are not sufficient. When nearly 75 percent of all VA pension recipients are 75 years of age or older, any outreach and communication strategy that predominately focuses on mobile, social media, or Internet outreach is insufficient. Restricting outreach to only Internet-based platforms does not only negatively impact elderly veterans but also impacts veterans in rural areas that struggle to have broadband access.”
Read the Senators’ full letter HERE.