WASHINGTON — Two unlikely Senate partners are joining forces with a bill that would protect elderly, low-income veterans from scam artists who try to steal a portion of their federal benefits.
Senators Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat, and Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act Thursday called the Veterans Care Financial Protection Act.
The bill would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to work with other federal and state agencies to crack down on fraudulent schemes relating to a veterans benefit that helps those who qualify for a VA pension and are housebound or require the assistance of another person to perform everyday living functions.
“It is necessary to stop older veterans from being the target of scams and predatory practices,” Rubio said in a statement. “These heroes deserve better, and we will always appreciate their brave service and sacrifice.”
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, veterans have been charged fees for obtaining a benefit that helps them afford assisted living or in-home personal care costs. Even though it doesn’t cost anything to apply for this program — called the ``aid and attendance’’ benefit — many individuals and companies are using the promise of help obtaining benefits to lure in elderly veterans for their financial services.
“These companies were offering help with obtaining aid and attendance but were requiring their customers to sign up for financial services first, and then moving the veterans’ assets into irrevocable trusts but not fully informing the veterans of the risks of doing so,” said Hollister K. Petraeus, assistant director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Office of Servicemember Affairs, in testimony before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in July.
These schemes may even end up disqualifying veterans for other government assistance programs, such as Medicaid.
“Unfortunately, scams are turning the program into something that can actually undermine the financial security of our older veterans and waste federal funds,” Warren said in a statement. “This bipartisan proposal will help put an end to these financial scams and ensure that we honor our veterans’ commitment, sacrifice, and service to the nation.”Mattias Gugel can be reached at email@example.com.