State Leaders Form Working Group to Protect Aging Veterans from Financial Schemes
GREAT FALLS – On the eve of Independence Day weekend, state leaders gathered in Great Falls today to warn current and retired members of the armed services of scams that target veterans. They also announced the creation of an inter-agency working group to focus on preventing the financial exploitation of aging and disabled veterans.
Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Monica J. Lindeen, Attorney General Steve Bullock and Veterans Affairs Division Director Joe Foster gathered with area veterans and their families at VFW Post 1087 to discuss the reported schemes.
According to veterans’ advocates, the danger comes from unqualified individuals who set themselves up as financial advisors with expertise in maximizing veterans benefits. While they sell themselves as experts, the advice they give to elderly or disabled veterans living in retirement communities and nursing homes across the state may actually put the veterans’ financial future at risk.
Investigators with the Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection and the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Office are looking into allegations that this may be occurring in Montana.
“Criminals have no qualms about fabricating an affiliation with the military to gain trust,” said Commissioner Lindeen, whose office regulates the offer and sale of investment and insurance products in Montana. “Salespeople have been known to peddle phony insurance and investment products, preying on military families’ fears…and then disappearing with the money.”
As Attorney General, Bullock oversees the Montana Department of Justice’s Office of Consumer Protection.
“Our nation’s aging veterans deserve to be protected, so today we are sending would-be scammers a message: ‘We’re watching and will take action against you,’” Bullock said.
The goal of the working group is to increase awareness of possible scams that target elderly or disabled veterans in nursing homes and assisted living centers. The group has also committed the full resources of each of the agencies involved to aggressively investigate any report that veterans are being taken advantage of, and to take appropriate enforcement action in situations that warrant it.
According to Veterans Affairs Division Director Joe Foster, his agency employs 21 professionals statewide to assist veterans in attaining their legitimate VA benefits and to serve as the veterans’ advocate.
“These schemes, which aim to transfer elderly veterans’ financial assets, are happening throughout the state,” Foster said. “They are misleading, potentially fraudulent and financially devastating, and use VA pension and aid/attendance benefits as the ‘hook.’”