Tester goes after companies abusing veterans’ pensions

Senator calls for investigation, pushes initiative to educate veterans

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is cracking down on companies that make money by misleading veterans and abusing the Department of Veterans Affairs’ pension program.

Low-income veterans over 65 or permanently disabled who served during wartime are eligible for VA pensions. In 2011, the system paid $4.3 billion to 517,100 veterans or their survivors whose annual income was below $12,200.

But many companies take advantage of the VA’s pension system by convincing elderly veterans to restructure and hide assets in order to become eligible for the lifelong pensions. Applications for VA pensions nearly doubled in the last five years.

Tester today called for the government’s consumer watchdog, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to “investigate and take enforcement action” against companies that give veterans misleading advice. He also called for better education of elderly veterans and their families.

At a Senate hearing today on VA pension abuse, Tester took the companies to task for taking advantage of the country’s veterans.

“We all know what America’s veterans have done for this country, make no mistake about it,” said Tester, Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Compound that with the deplorability of folks who want to go after our elderly, disabled veterans, I can tell you that it’ll make the enamel on your teeth chip.”

Today’s hearing also highlighted a government report that found that more than 200 recently-established companies profited from advising veterans on pension issues. The report also said that the VA needs to do more to verify applicants’ financial information.

Tester attended today’s hearing with Montanan Kris Schaffer, whose father, a World War II veteran, was convinced to sell his home to qualify for VA assistance. The VA, however, rejected his pension application, leaving him without any assets.

Tester also introduced Lori Perkio to the hearing panelists. Perkio is a veterans’ advocate from Montana who, as an American Legion Service Officer, helped veterans apply for VA services and benefits.

Tester’s letter to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray is available online HERE

In January, Tester brought Holly Petraeus, who heads the Office of Servicemember Affairs for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to Montana to discuss financial protection with over 450 Airmen at Malmstrom Air Force Base amid reports that American troops, veterans, and their families are frequent targets of financial scams.