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Vets warned of ‘pension poaching’ tactics

For one Warren County family, a news release this week from the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) about pension poaching was more than a warning.

It was a reminder.

According to Warren County Veterans Affairs Director Delores Stec, a county veteran and his spouse signed up for assistance with a company offering a variety of non-medical services. The company’s website lists a veteran as a founder.

But, the company did nothing but drain the veteran’s pension account.

“I had a veteran and his wife come in,” Stec said. “This company took all of the VA payment from them. They charged the veteran for doing their work and took everything of his.”

“I assumed veterans is veterans,” Suzanne Flasher said.

The company sounded like something she and her husband needed. Her husband is a veteran; he has diabetes, among other medical concerns.

“He needs a lot of things,” Flasher said. “He needs medication. He needs diabetic socks.”

“Let’s go ahead,” Flasher said. “We need the help.”

So, they signed up with the company.

In the first month, “We got $1,647 (in the pension account),” Flasher said. “They took it all.”

“The next month, they took it all,” she said.

When the couple’s pension was increased to $1,947, “They took all of that,” she said.

What did she and her veteran husband get for those dollars? “They never did a thing,” she said. “They never did a thing other than take money. They were really good at taking money.”

Flasher said they canceled their contract with the company in March– after months of expecting to receive services that never materialized.

“Of all people,” she said. “A veteran? Really?”

Stec reported the incident to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office. “It has been turned over to the AG,” she said. “We have a list of veterans groups that are legitimate — that will help. They will not be on it.”

“Veterans need to be aware that there are people out there who are scamming,” Stec said.

Anyone with questions about benefits and available services is encouraged to contact the Warren County Veterans Affairs Office at (814) 728-3478. The DMVA and the Warren County Veterans Affairs office never charge for assistance.

DMVA issued a press release on Tuesday.

“Pennsylvania veterans should be aware of people trying to poach their pension,” according to DMVA. “Pension Poaching is a financial scam targeting veterans, survivors, and their families who are potentially eligible for VA benefits.”

“With today being World Elder Abuse Prevention Day, it is the perfect time to raise awareness about military pension poaching, especially since the older veterans are prime targets for scammers,” Joel Mutschler, DMVA Bureau of Veterans Programs, Initiatives, Reintegration, and Outreach director, said. “Veterans served and sacrificed with great pride and deserve their pension. No one should ever deny a veteran an important benefit that they earned protecting our freedoms.”

“Veteran pension poaching occurs when scammers, unscrupulous players or dishonest financial planners charge veterans or their beneficiaries for help in applying for or submitting applications for VA pensions,” according to DMVA.

Mutschler said he wants to make it clear that veterans or their advocates should never pay:

¯ For forms or to submit applications

¯ To restructure assets in order to “qualify”

¯ For the promise of eligibility for a pension

¯ To receive a lump sum payment on a pension

“Pennsylvania has numerous accredited veteran service officers available who are eager to help veterans prepare claims and apply for benefits free of charge. These are experienced and certified professionals who are well-trained and provide great advice to veterans,” he added.

Those who have been targeted or victimized by a pension scam are encouraged to call (717) 783-1944, email PAvets@attorneygeneral.gov, or submit a complaint online at www.attorneygeneral.gov.

Stec at the Warren County Veterans Affairs office can be reached at (814)-728-3478.

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