Sunday, September 18, 2011

Aging Parent Alert: Watch Out for Scams on Veterans Aid & Attendance Program

Phone scams. Mail scams. Just days ago, a client named Vicki told me about another scam that almost got the best of her aging mother. It involved the Veterans Aid and Attendance Program.

The VAA Program is legitimate. If your parent is a veteran who served in wartime, or the surviving spouse of a wartime veteran, he or she may qualify for monthly help of as much as $1644 for a veteran, or $1056 for a surviving spouse, and still more for married veterans. To be eligible, the applicant must have limited assets and income and also need help with activities such as bathing, dressing or medication management.

Unfortunately, some "professionals" are twisting the intent of this program and taking vulnerable seniors for a ride. In Vicki's mom's case, she'd served in Korea years earlier. Recently the 76-year old woman toured a retirement community in rural Southwestern Washington, more than 100 miles away from her daughter.

"My mom was ready to move in," Vicki said. Her mom placed a deposit on an apartment. One huge problem: the monthly fee was $2500. Her income was less than $1500. She had few assets.

"You're a veteran, and I can help you apply for a program that will give you up to $1644 a month," the marketing representative said. She pulled out an application for Aid and Attendance. Once approved, Vicki's mom could receive benefits, retroactively to the date of application. The monthly benefit would help cover her fees.

Over the next few days the marketing rep "helped" Vicki's mom complete the lengthy application and kept assuring the older woman this was a sure thing. But something didn't seem right.

"You walk with a cane, don't you?" Vicki's mom shook her head. "Well, you do now!"

The marketing rep blew out of proportion the older woman's disability. Another troubling thing: Vicki's mom would need to take out a loan or find other funding to help pay her retirement community rent until her application was approved.

By this time, Vicki knew something was amiss. "I discovered that if the application didn't go through, my mother would still be liable for her retirement community rent!"

Vicki pulled her mom's deposit. The story ended happily.

If you think your parent might be eligible for Aid and Assistance, go straight to your nearest Veterans Office. Specially trained service officers can answer your questions and help your and your parent through the application.

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