Recently it came to my attention that several organizations are distributing information, paying for ads on national TV, handing out printed pamphlets, etc., to veterans purporting to “assist” veterans and their families to apply for VA benefits, compensation and pensions.
Many of them say there are millions of VA dollars going to waste in unclaimed benefits.
One of them I came across most recently is “U.S. Benefits Analysts.” Another is “Veterans Affairs Services.” There are others. All of them state in one way or another that there is no cost for their services.
So where is the payoff? We all know that nobody works for free, especially an organization that is promoting their services in print and mass media. Somebody has got to be paying for all promotion.
I got personally involved last week in doing a little detective work. I pretended I was just an old veteran who was interested in what they had to offer; in this case I called the “U.S. Benefits Analysts” group.
I got this pleasant lady and I asked her what services they provided and about costs. She told me there was no charge for their information and assistance. I asked her who paid her, knowing that no one works for free. She said that she was paid by the organization if there were any “fees” collected for services to the veteran other than the VA claims or benefits assistance. I asked her what kind “other” assistance would be involved? She said there are often some legal fees that are paid to their organization’s lawyers by veterans, etc. and she would get a percentage of those fees.
I asked her if she was an accredited VA Veterans Service Officer. She said no, that she worked under the umbrella of a lawyer who was an accredited VSO out of Kansas. So I said, “Well if you are not an accredited VSO yourself, why would you be handing out VA claims and benefits information and gathering personal information from the veteran?”
I asked her if she was just a great Samaritan and wanted to help veterans, why not refer them to an accredited VSO. She quickly said’, “Oh, they don’t know what they are doing and will tell the veteran their income is too high to qualify for the VA Pension benefit program.”
That pretty well concluded our conversation and I asked her to send me her printed information.
I get the information, I see the name of the representative, I see the name U.S. Benefits Analysts, I see the name “Cash for Vets” in the information. And, I see the name “Pension Consulting Services” in the same information. Hmmm, kind of confusing, and I suspect that is the way they want it!
They provide you with a copy of the VA 21-22a Personal Power of Attorney pre-filled in for an individual, and listed as an attorney.
The real kicker was a “Disclosure” page of the information:
“REQUIRED ACTION 2 (Their words). The Code of Federal Regulations governing VA Benefits Title 38 CFR 3.276 states that a Claimant may attempt to REDUCE net worth or countable income by transferring property to another person without actually giving up all rights in the property. (a) No sale or gift of property to a member of the same household will reduce the claimant’s net worth or IVAP(?). (b)No sale or gift of property to a person outside the claimant’s household will reduce net worth or IVAP unless the claimant can demonstrate that there has been an actual relinquishment of rights to the property and income from the property.”
Whew, kind of complicated that maybe only a “lawyer” would know (hmmm, time for another Aha.. Sounds like a claimant might be signing over property or assets?
But wait, there is more, and I quote: “If the Claimant has excess assets additional Estate Planning MUST be performed to establish a VA Friendly Trust to hold these assets. This trust must contain all provisions needed to pass the SCRUTINY of the VA. Likewise the assets placed inside the trust should be structured to meet the greatest protection of the claimant. This Estate Planning is separate from the service of filing the claim with the VA.”
In other words you are required to use this service, and guess who is going to pay for it?
Sounds like they are encouraging claimants to hide assets through some legal mumbo jumbo.
“Final REQUIRED ACTION: A “VA Friendly” Property Trust MUST be established which holds the primary residence only. This trust MUST contain all provisions needed to pass the scrutiny of the VA.”
Notice all of the “MUST” words? I personally get very suspicious when somebody tells me I “must” do something that involves my money or property.
There were other provisions of the disclosure, mostly saying a variation of the same requirements.
I think that this scheme and others like it are nothing more than a legal scam to collect VA Pension benefits from the VA and make the claimant pay for it, to circumvent the law.
I strongly urge all veterans and families to come and see me if you think you may be eligible for a VA Pension benefit or any other VA benefit, and I will give you the straight, legal information.
And it won’t cost you a dime!
For information on these and other veterans’ benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office located at the Senior Center in the Pagosa Springs Community Center on Hot Springs Blvd. The office number is 264-4013, the fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-6648, and e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.