Veterans Urged to Beware of Benefits Scams

By Robbins, Richard | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 29, 2011 | Go to article overview

Veterans Urged to Beware of Benefits Scams


Robbins, Richard, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Mary Sabatine felt something wasn't right when a financial adviser seemed too eager to help her secure veterans benefits to defray her 92-year-old father's nursing home costs.

"I didn't know his motivation," she said.

Nonetheless, Sabatine signed on with the adviser, turned over her father's financial records and waited.

Time passed, and nothing happened.

Sabatine finally turned to the Veterans Affairs office at the Westmoreland County Courthouse, where she got the help she needed -- free of charge.

She later learned that the financial adviser had not submitted any paperwork to the Veterans Administration on her father's behalf.

While the adviser had not asked for payment, Sabatine said she believes that once he realized her father's bank account was running low, he abandoned the case because there was no money to be made.

The situation is playing out again and again across the nation, according to Matt Zamosky, director of the Westmoreland County Veterans Affairs office.

"There are honest people out there" trying to do veterans a good turn, he said, while others are "clearly predatory."

Scams targeting aging veterans are "something we see popping up," said state Veterans Affairs spokeswoman Joan Nissley, who was unable to provide statistics on the number of cases reported.

Brig. Gen. Mike Gould, the state deputy adjutant general for veterans' affairs, said officials have heard of individuals and businesses that offer veterans free assistance in applying for benefits, then charge a fee for financial planning services.

"I can never stress enough when I say that veterans should never pay for these services," Gould said of benefits applications.

Veterans officials in Washington do not track the scams, said Kevin Secor, special assistant to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

"Always question someone's motives," Zamosky said.

Kit Watson, adjutant for the state American Legion, said he recently attended a meeting near Harrisburg in which representatives from a national company that helps veterans secure benefits claimed they could show veterans how to "hide assets. …

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