by: FILE PHOTO - Kurt SchraderThe House of Representatives has passed the Veterans Pension Protection Act to combat financial scams against retired military veterans and strengthen the Veterans Affairs (VA) pension program. The bipartisan bill, introduced by U.S. Congressman Tom Rooney (R-FL) and originally cosponsored by Congressmen Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Ron Barber (D-AZ), passed as part of a legislative package to reduce the backlog of VA disability claims and improve services for veterans.

“This bipartisan legislation will prevent unethical financial advisors from preying on the pensions of our nation’s warriors, who sacrifice life and limb to guarantee the freedoms we all enjoy,” Rep. Schrader said. “Our veterans deserve our respect when they come home, and it is our duty to protect the benefits they and their families have earned and depend on.”

The Veterans Pension Protect Act will address a common scam referred to as “pension poaching,” in which:

- Unprincipled financial firms convince veterans to divert their assets into trusts or annuities by promising to help veterans qualify for VA pension benefits.

- Firms profit from those trusts or annuities, though they are often poor investments that leave veterans without access to adequate financial resources.

- Firms further profit by charging veterans exorbitant fees and selling them additional unnecessary and costly services.

Since Veterans Affairs only considers net worth at the time a veteran applies for benefits, the Department cannot determine if an applicant has diverted assets in order to qualify. This legislation would close this loophole by creating a three-year “look-back” period to determine eligibility, similar to those already used to determine Social Security and Medicaid benefits.

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