Tuesday, October 8, 2019
The GAO recently issued this report, Veterans Benefits: Actions VA Could Take to Better Protect Veterans from Financial Exploitation. Here are the highlights from the report
Why This Matters
Veterans with disabilities who receive benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can be tempting targets for exploitation and scams. Veterans and their survivors who need help performing everyday activities, like bathing and dressing, can receive increased pension benefits known as aid and attendance.
VA paid $3.2 billion in total pension benefits to 232,000 recipients of aid and attendance in fiscal year 2018. Most recipients were over 80.
Scams that target them include:
- being overcharged for home care, or charged for services they did not receive, and
- getting bad investment advice from financial services organizations.
VA does not centrally collect and analyze information, such as complaints made against companies, that could show the prevalence of these scams, help VA target outreach to veterans, and help law enforcement go after scammers.
Other threats to veterans include:
- VA’s applications do not warn them about exploitation or scams: For example, forms do not warn veterans that they cannot be charged fees for filing claims.
- Misdirected benefit payments: VA does not always verify direct deposit information on applications, which could lead to payments being stolen. In contrast, the Social Security Administration verifies this information by reviewing individuals’ checks or account statements.
What GAO Recommends
We made four recommendations to VA, including that it collect better information on potential financial exploitation, post warnings on applications, and examine if it should take more steps to verify veterans' direct deposit information. VA agreed in principle with the need to collect better information, but its proposed actions do not fully address our concerns. VA agreed with the other three recommendations.
The full report is available here.