Thom Stoddert 

Hearing aids for veterans

  Trying to appear as advocates for elderly veterans and surviving spouses they use the lure of a single mis-represented veteran’s benefit to get prospective clients into their offices.   

  With patriotic names and marketing proclaiming their allegiance “to those who served”, they promise to assist vets or widows in filing claims for the VA’s Aid & Assistance program. Sometimes they even have an accreditation from the VA, however that is another story. But what are the dangers of working with such advocates?

  Sooner or later it will cost money; these advocates are first, last, and always about selling. Often referred to as pension poachers, they are experienced in presenting a product or service in an appealing manner whether it is in a meeting at a long-term care facility, the internet, or on a phone call.  They are trained to control what you think about their services. The sales-person, as they really are, will refocus you on what they want you to comprehend and will influence your understanding for what they want you to believe. They illegally and/or immorally use the lure of a misrepresented veteran’s benefit as a marketing niche.  

  What do they look like? The Pension Poacher is typically a business-person who has never served in the military. They speak very highly of their organization’s successes in assisting veterans about “a little-known program” available to help pay for medical expenses. For example, “We are here to assist you because we believe our honored veterans should not have to struggle with retirement because of health care or sickness cost. Our organization was created to see our veterans secure in the country they served.” (www.vaabenefit.com) 

   Over the years I have received many complaints about an organization with a name linked to love of country and inhabitants of heaven. Those complaints always relayed how this organization wanted $3,000 for their services that are supposed to be free.

  Typically, pension poachers claim they have come with the “saving solution” and are ready to “serve.” You mean they get up each day and do this for 8 hours for free just because of altruism? You will notice on the many websites posted by poachers they are appear rather skittish how they can be contacted.

  The poachers play a shell game. Confusing what is contained in the VA’s multi-level pension program that is intended for financially disadvantaged veterans who served during a period of conflict, are disabled, or above 65.    With the use of loop-holes in the law and selling financial products often of poor value, they make the claimant appear artificially impoverished and eligible to the VA. This endangers the veteran’s benefits should the VA find out and pay back may be required. Poachers talk about Aid and Attendance, but it is really the VA’s P-E-N-S-I-O-N program and a veteran can live at home and still be paid the basic level. So, veterans who are not in a facility are often over looked or ignored from this benefit by poachers. Aid and Attendance is a higher level of payment as is the mid-level Housebound benefit.

  Looking deeper in to these organizations and the agents, almost always is seen a business with a lawyer, a financial planner, and/or an insurance broker. They have no relations with legitimate veteran organizations by either cooperative efforts or events. They are also frequently work within elder care facilities.

  The long-term care facility will ask its clients if they want to learn about veterans benefits. Then the poacher marches in and talks only about one benefit: Aid and Attendance, ignoring all the other benefits that will provide better payments, because there is no financial reward for them. The poacher, even if they have a VA accreditation, rarely ever knows about disability compensation, Dependents Indemnity Compensation for widows, or other available options.

  When these groups are focused on just one of the many VA benefit programs, they short change the veteran or widow from receiving other benefits.  

  The National Association of Black Veterans (NABV) of Washington state found that over half of the eligible veterans sitting in a Pension Poacher seminar discussing VA Pension, were also eligible for much better benefits. I still get calls from VA accredited attorneys asking for assistance for non-pension issues.

  The following advertisement made by one such organization, US Senior Vets, was a typical example found on the internet, “USSV…is a national 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to assisting and educating our nation's senior veterans and their surviving spouses about the Non-Service Connected Disability Pension with Aid and Attendance. … We are here to provide guidance through what can often be a complex and confusing process. … all claims related matters are conducted by our VA accredited staff. Jointly, we have successfully assisted tens of thousands of deserving Veterans and Surviving Spouses in obtaining their benefits.” This organization is most likely defunct now as the director lost his 
Nevada bar license for defrauding a mentally handicapped woman.

   Do you want to work with a person who may have already shown themselves to be ethically challenged by their misrepresentation of facts? That sales person has broken the law by using veterans benefits for a marketing lure. They may have broken several other laws that oversee the collection of information and its use, and/or they have discussed veterans benefits when they do not have the right or knowledge to do so. They are not accurate in the information they disseminate. In the end someone pays for a service that is supposed to be free.

  How can a veteran or family member get help for VA benefits – no strings attached? My mother got assistance from a volunteer at a local VA medical treatment facility in Florida. A friend’s wife in Kentucky got unexpected help from a funeral home and the VA when her husband passed away a few weeks ago, with benefits available almost immediately. There are often many volunteers available at the local veterans halls in every city and town. Each county in the US has a veteran advisory board. Every state has their own Department of Veteran Affairs. The VA has all the information, forms with instructions, and videos on the internet to assist claimants. And I have found some good ethical lawyers over the years, this paper knows a few. So, why use the services of a seriously phony advocate?


Seriously Phony Veteran’s Advocates

Thom Stoddert
Thom Stoddert
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