Act will help protect elderly veterans against scammers
OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s Pension Poacher Prevention Act today passed the Legislature with strong bipartisan support. This measure addresses the growing problem of “pension poachers” who try to scam elderly veterans. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Ferguson worked with Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, and Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, to secure approval for Senate Bill 6208. A coalition of veterans’ advocacy groups and organizations representing elderly Washingtonians, including AARP, supported the bill.
“Our veterans protected us and we have a duty to protect them from scams,” said Ferguson. “The Attorney General’s Office is working hard to defend the legal rights of veterans, and this bill will improve safeguards and increase enforcement against scammers who rob veterans of their hard earned benefits.”
“Pension poachers” represent a growing scam to separate elderly veterans from their assets. The scheme involves unscrupulous financial planners or insurance agents claiming to be veterans’ advocates. They offer “help” in submitting a claim for a specific federal U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs pension benefit called Aid and Attendance.
The Federal Trade Commission and VA have each issued recent warnings about the scheme. Poachers convince veterans to reposition their assets to try to qualify for the Aid and Attendance benefit, which has specific and strict qualifications. The poachers then sell veterans often unneeded financial products or services to earn a commission or fee.
Problems arise because these unscrupulous brokers often fail to deliver on their promises, do not provide full information about other veterans benefits, and do not reveal the potentially adverse consequences of the financial transactions such as loss of Medicaid eligibility.
The Attorney General’s Pension Poacher Prevention Act will address these problems by prohibiting certain unfair and deceptive practices. The law will:
- Make it illegal to receive compensation for assisting with the preparation of a claim, except as allowed under the VA’s rules for accreditation;
- Prohibit individuals from guaranteeing a specific benefit amount;
- Make it illegal to misuse personal and financial information gathered for the purposes of assisting an individual with a veterans claim; and
- Give the Attorney General’s Office enforcement authority through the state’s consumer protection laws.
“Veterans and their families have sacrificed to protect us and as lawmakers we must do what we can to protect them,” said Sen. Andy Hill, who sponsored the legislation. “Too often scammers have defrauded veterans of their retirement savings and insurance options. By improving protections we can help secure their financial future.”
“Vulnerable elderly veterans are being targeted by pension poachers offering empty promises of help,” said Rep. Kevin Parker, who sponsored a version of the bill in the House of Representatives. “Veterans are a vital part of our community and we need to work to protect them and the benefits they have earned.”
"Veterans are sometimes specifically targeted for the benefits they have earned because of their service,” said Alfie Alvarado-Ramos, Director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs. “Veterans and families who need claims assistance can always get it for free by contacting our agency and network of accredited veteran service officers.”
Individuals who have concerns about possible pension poaching scams are encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Office at 1-888-551-4636 or file a complaint at: http://www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.
For more information about veterans’ benefits and assistance contact the Washington State Dept. of Veterans Affairs at 1-800-562-2308 or visit the website at: http://www.dva.wa.gov/benefits.html.
Senate bill sponsors include: Senators Hill (R-45), Conway (D-29), Braun (R-20), Hobbs (D-44), Kohl-Welles (D-36), Chase (D-32) and Benton (R-17)
House bill sponsors include: Representatives Parker (R-6) Kirby (D-29), Fagan (R-9), Ryu (D-32), Morrell (D-25), Christian (R-4), Orwall (D-), Pollet (D-46) and Muri (R-28)
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The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications
Alison Dempsey-Hall, Deputy Comm. Director