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LO-based senior housing giant settles with DOJ over veterans benefit pitch

Settlement reached; wrongdoing denied


Officials with a Lake Oswego-based international senior living company have agreed to pay restitution to at least 163 Oregon veterans who were financially hurt as a result of alleged unlawful marketing of senior housing to veterans.

After a lengthy investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice, Holiday Retirement has entered into a settlement with the department that calls for the company to pay $750 to $3,500 or more to each victim.

Holiday Retirement has corporate offices at 5885 Meadows Road, No. 500, in Lake Oswego. Holiday moved its headquarters to the Kruse Woods Corporate Park from Salem in April of 2012.

There are no Holiday living facilities in Lake Oswego, although the company manages 14 locations statewide, including in Newberg, Beaverton, Roseburg, Gresham, Portland, Hillsboro, Grants Pass, Eugene, Bend and Milwaukie, two in Corvallis and two in Salem.

According to information provided by the justice department, its staff investigated allegations that Holiday made misrepresentations to prospective customers about the availability of federal veterans’ benefits.

According to a DOJ release, “some moved into Holiday facilities based on the anticipated additional income and Holiday’s offer to defer their rent. After some of these new residents failed to qualify for the veterans benefits, Holiday took aggressive actions to collect the deferred rent.”

The DOJ release also noted that “Robert E. Elhard Jr. and Fielding Financial LLC were involved with Holiday in promoting the veterans benefits. They, too, have entered into a settlement with the Department of Justice that bans them permanently from soliciting or providing financial services to Oregon veterans.

Holiday agreed to pay $200,000 to the Oregon Department of Justice Protection and Education Account and to pay $95,000 toward DOJ’s attorney’s fees. In a separate transaction, Holiday also donated $50,000 to the Oregon Veterans’ Home.

“In addition to paying the restitution, Holiday agreed to stop doing business with Elhard or any unapproved veteran financial advisers, to change its marketing practices as they relate to senior veterans and veterans’ benefits, and to stop its ‘deferred rent’ program.”

“It is unconscionable under Oregon law to take advantage of seniors,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said. “After the many sacrifices senior veterans have made for our country, no group is more deserving of respect and fair treatment.”

Holiday, one of the largest providers of senior housing in the country, denied wrongdoing, as did Elhard. Both cooperated with the Department of Justice’s investigation. Holiday maintains about 315 locations across the United States and Canada.

“There is more work to do,” Rosenblum said, “but I am proud we were able to remove Mr. Elhard from the Oregon marketplace and to convince a major provider of senior housing to change its practices and make things right by their customers. My office will vigilantly monitor Holiday’s reform efforts going forward.”

The investigation began after the department received complaints about Elhard from residents of  Holiday’s Rock Creek facility in Hillsboro and volunteers with the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs. DOJ’s investigation expanded to include all 14 of Holiday’s Oregon facilities. The allegations under investigation included:

n Holiday failed to disclose it had a business marketing relationship with Elhard, who represented he was a “free” advocate for senior veterans.

nElhard and Holiday failed to disclose Elhard’s objective to identify financially “overqualified” veterans and to sell them trusts and annuities as a means to divest themselves of assets and meet the financial requirements for a VA pension.

n Veterans often did not get timely VA application service. Some applications were never submitted.

n Holiday offered “deferred rent” agreements to senior veterans to induce them to move in while VA applications were anticipated or pending. Holiday thereafter insisted that some senior residents “agree” to lease changes that made the deferred rent program more onerous to consumers.

n Holiday and Elhard shared confidential financial and medical information obtained from seniors.

According to the Holiday Retirement website, the company in May announced its intent to raise $1.2 million to benefit veterans. In renewing its partnership with nonprofit Outward Bound for Veterans and Outward Bound Canada, the company said it hoped to support more than 600 veterans in the United States and Canada.

The $1.2 million would allow more than “600 veterans to participate in an Outward Bound veteran excursion program, which uses outdoor adventure to assist returning service men and women in the transition from combat to civilian life.”

According to its website, as a company, “Holiday is home to more than 12,000 veterans and surviving spouses.”

The DOJ release indicated a survey will be sent to veterans and family members who think they may have suffered financial damage because of Elhard’s or Holiday’s practices. For more information about this settlement, call the Oregon Department of Justice’s consumer hotline at 877-877-9392. For more information about veterans benefits or other related issues, call the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs at 800-692-9666 or 503-373-2085.

The Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs offers free, qualified advice and application services through its statewide network of volunteers. More information about veterans benefits, generally, is available at http://oregon.gov/odva/BENEFITS/Pages/index.aspx.

For more information about Holiday Retirement, call 503-370-7070 or visit http://holidaytouch.com.