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Senior scam targets veterans

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It has become apparent to those of us who practice elder law and who legitimately serve the citizens of our community, that if there is an opportunity to “fleece” an unsuspecting senior, there’s always someone who will readily do so! Some make outrageous promises to provide some kind of “service” or “assistance” that actually only benefits the so-called “advocate.” In years past, these “experts” would hold “informational seminars” where the promoter touts a “living trust package” for $395. Of course, the small charge was set at $395 because $400 is the base for a charge of felony misconduct. Instead of providing information that would be helpful, the promoter would actually take the opportunity to acquire personal financial information and use it to promote the senior’s purchase of an annuity. The “pitch” was that the annuity would “protect them” from nursing home expense and qualify the senior for Medi-Cal benefits. Following reports of scam after scam, the California legislature finally enacted legislation to put a stop to these outrageous practices and to protect citizens from these predators. Annuities are no longer a “protected” asset with regard to Medi-Cal and any home visit scheduled by these salespeople now requires a 24-hour notice so that a relative can be present at the meeting. One “popular” local attorney actually lost his license to practice law in California due to unscrupulous practices of this type. The new scam has now turned to “VA benefits.” Again, the elderly veteran, or the widow of a veteran, is lured by promises of obtaining “VA benefits” — when the so-called “strategy” for qualifying for the assistance consists solely of promoting and selling an annuity. While there is a legitimate purpose for investing in an annuity in numerous cases, there is virtually no benefit for investing assets in an annuity when seeking VA benefits. More often, the main purpose of selling an annuity is to reap a commission for those who promote them. Any veteran, spouse or family member of a veteran seeking to obtain well-deserved assistance from the VA would be wise to seek the counsel of a qualified attorney, accredited by the VA to act on behalf of the veteran or widow, before getting involved in one of these scams. For example, check the professional’s VA accreditation. A. ANN ARMSTRONG, Auburn