The GAO yearlong investigation into the VA pension program for low-income veterans found that “weak oversight and unclear rules have made the system ripe for abuse.”
A recent Government Accounting Office report (GAO-12-784T) states that more than 200 companies offer financial services that can help well-off veterans qualify for benefits by transferring or hiding assets so they can qualify for the VA veteran pension program. The VA veteran pension program is means tested, which means to qualify, veterans must meet certain low-income criteria as outlined by federal law. Click here to view the current income limits for the VA Veteran Pension program.
In response, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) will introduce legislation to stop abuses in veterans’ pension programs that victimize low-income veterans and lead to fraud and waste. The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Wyden (D-OR) and Burr (R-NC). If passed, the bill will enable the Department of Veterans Affairs to take a closer look at the assets of veteran pension applicants.
“This legislation will protect both veterans and pension plans from abuses of the VA pension system,” said Blumenthal. “Pension abuses drive costs up for all both veterans and pension plans, and this legislation gives the VA the tools to fight these schemes and protect the integrity of the VA pension system.”
The legislation would give the VA a three year “look back” and penalty period to assess applicants’ true net worth and penalize those who falsified applications. Currently, the VA determines whether pension applicants satisfy the net worth limitations as of the date when they apply for pension benefits – there is no procedure to take into account whether an applicant has recently transferred away assets in order to qualify.