Pension poachers are financial planners, attorneys, and insurance agents, who seek out older adults with steady incomes in the form of pensions and convince them to restructure their assets in a potentially catastrophic way in order to qualify them for the VA benefit.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, and according to the findings of an undercover operation by the Government Accountability Office, hundreds of financial and estate-planning professionals claim to help veterans obtain the Aid and Attendance benefit. The “Pension Poacher” sells annuities or sets up trusts in other people’s names. The reason for the annuity or trust is to help the veteran or spouse lower their assets in order to qualify for the benefits (Aid and Attendance has an asset test).
An example of this, is a 90 year old veteran being sold a 10 year long annuity. This obviously does not make financial sense for the veteran, but also, if this veteran were to need Medicaid in the future, the annuity could potentially prevent the veteran from receiving Medicaid assistance (for long-term care assistance).
Making transfers of assets to trusts and the purchase of an annuity itself are not unlawful, and there are many attorneys out there who are accredited by the Veterans Administration who do a fantastic job helpings seniors get qualified. The question is, who do you trust to help you through the VA application maze when there are hundreds of organizations and people who consider themselves “VA Planners,” and could potentially not do what is in the best interest of the veteran.
We recommend researching the professional’s qualifications and reputation. For veterans issues, it’s always best to opt for a VA-accredited attorney. These attorneys are qualified to help guide families through the application process and any other planning strategies involved in getting qualified. You can use this search option to find VA-Accredited Attorneys – http://www.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation/
VA-Accredited Attorneys know the rules, and will do what is in the best interest of the veteran legally.
Editors Note: Each week we feature Brandon Thomson on our Elder Advocate Radio podcast. Mr. Thomson covers elder law and estate planning topics