Beware – Veterans benefits scam

Many veterans and their caregivers are aware of benefits available to them through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  One that is particularly helpful to caregivers – especially caregivers who are coping with something like Alzheimer’s disease in a loved one – is the VA Aid and Attendance program.

Aid and Attendance is a “non-service connected” or “pension benefit,” meaning eligibility is not based on having been injured during service.  It is a needs-based benefit available to those with limited or no income and minimal savings.  Aid and Attendance can help pay for care in the home, an assisted living facility, or skilled nursing facility for the veteran, spouse or surviving spouse.

Aid and Attendance isn’t a widely known benefit and unscrupulous individuals have been using that to their advantage.  These financial predators seek out veterans who can’t qualify because they have too high a monthly income or too many assets.  The predators convince people they are entitled to the benefit and that they can receive thousands of dollars to pay for in-home care or to help pay for a stay at an assisted living facility.  What really happens is these predators persuade people into buying into their estate planning schemes.  People have lost thousands of dollars to these swindlers.

Currently, there are two bills going through the state legislature to help protect veterans from these scams.  But, until these protections are in place, if you think you or your relative are eligible for Veterans benefits, contact your local County Veterans Service Officer (VSO) and ask for a ‘benefits review’.  You can find your local VSO by calling the state VSO office at 858.694.3222 or searching www.cacvso.org. Other resources that may help you access Veterans benefits are CalVet Veterans Services (877.741.8532, www.calvet.ca.gov) or your local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) office (916.449.8850 or www.vfw.org).

If you are caregiver to a veteran, another resource is the VA Caregiver Support Program.  They have a telephone hotline 855.260.3274 and an informative website www.caregiver.va.gov.  Each VA VISN (coverage area) has a Caregiver Support Coordinator who can help connect you to the services you are eligible for.