Boots on the Ground - Fighting Financial Abuse of Elder Veterans

by Tamari Hedani, MPH, Associate Director, Elder Abuse Prevention Program Institute on Aging

ELDER VETERANS ARE TARGETED
Financial abuse is the most common form of elder mistreatment in the United States, rendering hundreds of thousands of victims financially and emotionally devastated each year. Financial predators often target specific populations and communities. One form of financial abuse targets elder veterans and their families, promising to assist them with qualifying for veterans benefits through the sale of unsuitable financial products and irrevocable living trusts. These scams threaten the health, safety, and financial well-being of thousands of elder veterans across the country.

VETERANS BENEFITS PROTECTION PROJECT
In response to this devastating form of elder financial abuse, the Institute on Aging’s (IOA) Elder Abuse Prevention Program formed the San Francisco Veterans Benefits Protection Project (VBPP), a grassroots coalition that fights pension poaching scams targeting older veterans. In partnership with the California Department of Insurance, California Attorney General’s Office, San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services (including Adult Protective Services and the County Veterans Service Office), California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, San Francisco Ombudsman’s Office, San Francisco Veterans Affairs Commission, and National Center of Elder Abuse, the VBPP aims to detect fraud at early stages, respond effectively to complaints, and strengthen preventative efforts to stop scammers.

The VBPP launched its outreach and website last Veterans Day to share reliable resources for veterans and professionals working with veterans. Since then, the IOA has conducted 14 trainings to over 725 individuals, notified and trained administrators at all licensed residential care facilities and senior centers in San Francisco about the scam, and received an Aging Innovation Award from the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

On November 8, 2017, in advance of this year’s Veterans Day, the VBPP will be holding a press conference in San Francisco announcing its new Screening Tool and Intake Questionnaire aimed at detecting scams associated with veterans benefits qualification. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and representatives from the VBPP’s stakeholder agencies will speak about their commitment to this project and collaborative work to protect elder veterans.

TAKE ACTION

The IOA and the VBPP stakeholders need your help to identify these scams in your communities, identifying scammers and victims, and protecting elder veterans. The IOA’s Elder Abuse Protection Program can provide case consultations, trainings, and supportive materials as well as connect you and your clients to experts and investigators in the field. The VBPP is easily replicable for your county, so please reach out to us. We would love to hear from you!