Elderly Veterans are Targeted by Scammers

Elderly Veterans are Targeted by Scammers

During his presidency, Abraham Lincoln declared that America should serve its soldiers long after their service was done. His words became the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) motto just weeks before the end of a gruesome civil war that killed at least 750,000 people.

A metal plaque marks the entrance to the VA's headquarters today, reaffirming the country's duty to its service members and veterans. 

One of those service members was Larry Eber. However, today's VA has a hard time protecting veterans like him.

Eber returned to his home in California in 1970 after serving in Vietnam. Initially, Eber worked at a supermarket and a swimming pool. He had a difficult time reintegrating into civilian life. His drinking became a problem, and he began suffering from schizophrenia. He would sometimes find himself homeless.

Eber existed at the periphery of society for decades. When his health began to decline, he made one last attempt to live a better life at 73. Rick, Eber's younger brother, helped him seek help from the VA.

Larry was placed in recovery in 2016 and was placed in temporary housing. 
He applied for different types of aid and benefits, but he was inundated with documents to sign and fine print he did not understand, according to his brother. He did not realize he would spend the money on help he did not need and VCC fees. In addition, the proposed benefits negated Larry's existing government aid and left him in a worse position than when he started.

VA, defendants and legal experts will emphasize the concept of undue influence, such as whether the company had a fiduciary relationship with the veteran, whether the veteran had legal capacity when they signed up, and whether they can prove they were manipulated.

Pension poaching is just one more underreported way scammers take money from tired people. The United States Government Office of Accountability (GAO) released a report earlier this year indicating elder financial exploitation costs in the billions of dollars. 

This includes studies that tally abuse at more than $1 billion in each state. As the U.S. population ages, the GAO says the problem will only worsen.

Granger said low-income veterans and their families had become the target of scammers since 2018 when the VA made it more challenging to target wealthier veterans under the guise of helping them obtain aid and assistance benefits.

He explained that the problem now affects "tens of thousands of people" in more precarious financial situations.