Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Professor Morgan blogged about this interesting NYT article earlier, but I want to highlight a portion of Jessica Silver-Greenberg's "Winning Veterans' Trust, and Profiting From It." The article is especially critical of "actors" active in representing or promoting VA benefits for aging veterans, including "lawyers, financial advisers and insurance brokers."
"Questionable actors are capitalizing on loose oversight to unlock the V.A. money and enrich themselves, sometimes at veterans’ expense. The V.A. accreditation process is so lax that applicants provide their own background information, including any criminal records. But the V.A. has only four full-time employees evaluating the approximately 5,000 applications that it receives annually. Once people get the V.A.’s stamp of approval, they rarely lose it, even if a customer complains or regulatory actions mount. Last year, the V.A. revoked its accreditation for two of its more than 20,000 advisers."
But it is one thing to question the standards for accreditation for individuals to represent or assist applicants for VA benefits. It strikes me there is an irony to the fact that the VA requires accreditation in order to serve as a paid advisor, yet that very accreditation is, according to the article, apparently part of the problem.
It seems to me the history described in the article also suggests the very real importance of VA benefits to individuals, especially those struggling to afford long-term care, such as 86-year-old Henry Schaffer, who seems to be in that gray zone of just enough inome to be "ineligible" for VA benefits, but not enough income to afford to pay privately. Thus, the arguable need for "planning." The article has a mixed message, one that I tend to question, as the article seems to imply that the increased rate of usage of VA benefits is due primarily to improper benefit awards, secured by manipulative "players" rather than experienced consultants working within the rules.
I noticed that the comments to the article are as interesting as the article itself, pointing to the need for better public understanding of VA benefits (including the availability of benefits for spouses of former members of the service). The comments highlight the consequences of close calls on ineligibility, and therefore also emphasize the need for qualified legal or other knowledgeable assistance.