COMBAT VETERAN OR NOT, THIS APPLIES TO YOU AS A FORMER SOLDIER
“All veterans should be aware that no-cost assistance is available for filing an initial application for benefits. (Note, however, that fees may properly be charged for appeals of VA [Veterans Administration] initial decisions.) It is not appropriate for any unaccredited “claims consultants” or representatives to charge veterans a percentage of future payments or fees to assist with filing initial benefit claims. Veterans should decline assistance from anyone proposing such an arrangement. These unaccredited individuals may improperly promise to send veterans to private healthcare providers that will increase the chance for successful decisions or higher benefits, or inappropriately advise veterans to avoid exams from a VA provider. Veterans should never agree to have their VA benefit payments directly deposited into the bank account of a claims consultant.” [Fraud Alert VA Office of Inspector General]
Not all veterans have access to information regarding their benefits, especially if they are not members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), other service-oriented organizations such as the American Legion or in the VA's health system. Some information covering benefits may be received upon discharge but navigating the following decades into old age is aptly described as “every soldier for himself.” Finding out about scams is usually dependent upon chance encounters with fellow veterans, social media posts, occasional articles in newspapers, or actually falling victim to one. That leaves former soldiers at the mercy of the scammers who will rob the veteran while giving him/her a hug and gushing “Thank you for your service”… while adding inaudibly, “…you chump.”
As a VFW member and also health care registrant with the VA, I receive dozens of emails each month from these organizations, keeping me up to date with the latest news, good and bad. A recent message from the VFW about one of the latest scams, described in the lead paragraph above, led me to write this article with the intention of it being read by former service members, their family members, or friends who otherwise would not be in the know.
The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) is promoting a scam alert you can read by going to the RELATED LINKS at the end of this article. They have also published this scam warning one-pager: DON'T FEED THE SHARKS, a copy of which is also available under RELATED LINKS below.
There are thousands of military veterans in the state of Washington. If you know any, you can do them a favor and send a copy of this article or re-post it on local social media.
Friends watching out for friends.
[Disclaimer: I am an appointee to the Whatcom County Veterans Advisory Board. This article is separate from my official activities and duties as a board member.]