PENNSYLVANIA — Veterans in Pennsylvania need to be on high alert as the state’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) warns of scammers targeting their military pensions. These fraudsters are preying on older or disabled veterans, who may already be receiving pension payments from the DMVA and/or VA. Joel Mutschler, director of the DMVA Bureau of Veterans Programs, Initiatives, Reintegration and Outreach, warned that all veterans and their advocates must be cautious when seeking assistance with their hard-earned benefits. With the rise of Pension Poaching, it is essential to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behavior immediately. It is vital to remember that those who served our nation deserve to receive their full benefits without the threat of exploitation.
“Older veterans may be the prime target for scammers, but all veterans and their advocates should be vigilant when seeking assistance with benefits earned through military service,” said Joel Mutschler, director, DMVA Bureau of Veterans Programs, Initiatives, Reintegration and Outreach. “The best way to avoid being scammed is for veterans to use an accredited veteran service officer when applying for benefits. These trusted counselors do not charge for their services, and always look after the best interest of veterans.”
Veteran pension poaching occurs when scammers, unscrupulous players or dishonest financial planners charge veterans or their advocates for assistance in applying for or submitting applications for military pensions. The scheme often involves financial maneuvers such as advising claimants to hide their assets in trusts or annuity products sometimes resulting in lost investments and lucrative fees paid to the advisor.
Mutschler said veterans and advocates should be especially vigilant now about PACT Act-related scams. The new PACT Act law expands VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances.
Here is how veterans and advocates can protect against PACT Act scams:
- Do not provide personal, medical, financial or VA benefit information online or over the phone. Federal agencies will not contact you unless you make a request.
- Do not click on online ads or engage with social media that seems suspicious.
- Look for “https://” at the start of website addresses; that means they’re more likely to be legitimate. Enable multi-factor authentication on all accounts, if possible.
- Never share your VA login information or deposit VA benefits directly into a third-party bank account unless the person is court appointed or a VA fiduciary.
- Work with veterans service providers you already know.
- Report any suspected fraud to ftc.gov.
Mutschler said he wants to make clear that veterans or their advocates should never pay for the following:
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and/or PA DMVA forms
- Pension application fees
- Restructuring assets in order to “qualify”
- The promise of eligibility for a pension
- Lump sum payment on a pension
There are approximately 200 veteran service officers in Pennsylvania who work within organizations such as the DMVA, county veterans affairs offices and several veterans service organizations.
Contact information for County Directors of Veterans Affairs as well as contact information for Veteran Service Officers can be found on DMVA’s website.
Experienced or suspect a pension scam? Call (717) 783-1944, email [email protected], or submit a complaint online at www.attorneygeneral.gov. You can also report any VA-related scam to the VA benefits hotline at 800-827-1000.
To learn more about the DMVA, visit us online at www.dmva.pa.gov.
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