This information can be found at http://www.ftc.gov
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Veterans and their families are a target for some dishonest advisers who are claiming to offer free help with paperwork for pension claims. The scheme involves attorneys, financial planners, and insurance agents trying to persuade veterans over 65 to make decisions about their pensions without giving them the whole truth about the long-term consequences. If you are a veteran over 65, you may be approached by people with convincing come-ons offering to help you apply for supplemental pension benefits. Whether it’s through an ad or a website, the offer usually involves a free seminar and claims, for free, they can help you get the benefits you are entitled to receive.
The people behind these pitches, who may claim to be veterans’ advocates, also show up at assisted living facilities, senior centers, or other places in your community to help you submit your application for Aid and Attendance benefits to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). But often, they’re unscrupulous lawyers, financial planners, or insurance agents who merely rent the space to deliver a lunch or some snacks along with a high-pressure sales pitch for their products and services. The FTC warns that these so-called advisers may claim to be veterans to gain your trust and they appeal to your emotions to create anxiety and apprehension about your future. As a rule, they leave out important details; the truth is that if you follow their advice, you’re likely to end up without the supplemental pension benefits they promise, disqualified from other government benefits, and stuck in a financial investment that’s not in your, or your family’s, best interest for the long term.
The so-called advisers offer to help you complete the paperwork to file your benefits claims. If your assets are above the required threshold, their goal is to convince you to restructure your finances so you can qualify for Aid and Attendance. That’s how they earn their money: by selling you an annuity or creating a trust. For instance, the more money you put into certain insurance products, the more money the insurance adviser gets paid.
Here’s what you need to know:
• Transferring assets. Under current rules, it is not illegal to shift your assets to family members or to a trust to make you appear needy and qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits. But transferring assets can have serious consequences: it can disqualify you for A&A benefits rather than qualify you. If disqualified, you would be required to return any A&A benefits already paid to you.
• Annuities. If you buy an annuity, you pay a premium and then you get regular payments over time from an insurance company. People often use annuities to provide a steady stream of income. But depending on the annuity, if you need money early and have to withdraw it, you may have to pay very high fees.
Annuities aren’t right for everyone: their suitability depends on your age, needs, and particular situation. The FTC advises you to apply for Aid and Attendance benefits by directly visiting the VA’s website at http://www.ebenefits.va.gov. There is no cost for the forms and no fees to apply. Remember, your best defense against someone who wants to poach your pension to get you a better deal is NO Thanks!