The N.C. Division of Veterans Affairs is warning veterans about a scam that promises help with pensions and other benefits, but for a high price.
Tim Wipperman, assistant secretary for veterans affairs, said his office has received several reports about people who claim they want to help veterans with the VA benefits process, but veterans end up losing hundreds of dollars.
“We are trying to get a grip on this,” Wipperman said. “These folks are good at changing their tactics where they do what they do and stay one millimeter above the law.”
The scammers target veterans – mostly those who are older or disabled – through seminars and other outreach programs about VA Aid & Attendance Special Pension, Wipperman said. That is a special federal veterans’ benefit program that provides financial support to veterans who have a limited income and who are considered to be in need of regular in-home or nursing home care.
“Once they get the veterans and their families in the room, they give them a little pitch. They try to sell them questionable insurance or investment products,” Wipperman said.
The scammers also promise to file a claim with the VA at a cost, but the claim is not filed, or it is filed incorrectly, he said.
Others targeted by the scammers are homeless veterans. These scam artists charge homeless veterans a fee to prepare or assist in a claim. Their fee is taken from each monthly check, which the scammer has mailed to his home.
The state Division of Veterans Affairs is working with several agencies to try to educate veterans about the scams. The N.C. Department of Justice issued a release in September warning veterans about the problem.
Wipperman is also working with U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan to address the issue.
“We plan to stay on this,” said Mary Hanley, Hagan’s press secretary. “We are doing our own outreach to veterans and will continue to do so.
“We consider this a serious problem. It is unfortunate that this is going on. It is deplorable.”
Veterans should seek any assistance they need from someone who is accredited by the Veterans Administration to represent veterans seeking benefits. Those who are accredited aren’t allowed to charge for services.
“If we can get the veterans to come to an accredited service officer, it will help,” Wipperman said.
In South Carolina, veterans can search for accredited service officers on the VA’s website, www.doa.nc.gov/vets/locations.